Saturday, October 15, 2016

Mac and Cheese with Butternut Squash

Here is a repost of one of my favorite fall recipes featuring winter squash. It is a mac and cheese that is full of veggie goodness but you would never know. It gets a rich orange color and a full flavor from the addition of butternut or other winter squash puree.
Many are afraid of cooking with butternut because they think it must be peeled or chopped while raw. But for recipes like this one, the squash only needs to be cut in half or in quarters and then roasted . You could even pierce a whole butternut multiple times and then microwave it for a few minutes to soften the shell before cutting. After roasting according to the recipe, it is very easy to peel or scoop out the squash and then puree it. You could substitute frozen squash from the freezer section or even canned pumpkin. Or try some of the specialty winter squashes like the sweet buttercup or the fluffy kabocha; just cut and roast them like butternut.
Feel free to use less cheese if desired, it will still be tasty!

Mac and Cheese with Butternut Squash

About 10- 12 side dish servings, 8-10 entrée sized portions

1 medium Butternut squash or buttercup squash or
kabocha or even canned pumpkin  (about 2 1/2 cups pureed)

1 1/2 TBSP butter

2 -3 TBSP flour

2 cups low fat milk, slightly warmed (may need more)

2 cloves garlic, pressed

Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste, maybe about a tsp.

½ tsp.  fresh grated nutmeg, Onion powder, paprika, thyme 

¼+ tsp. garlic powder, crushed red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper

1 lb. pasta, hearty variety cellantani or elbow would be good choices, whole grain if desired

1/3 cup Greek yogurt, optional

1 1/3   cup Swiss or gruyere cheese, shredded

1 1/3   cup sharp or extra sharp cheddar, shredded

1/3 cup parmegiano reggiano, grated

2-3 large tomatoes (or use 4-5 roma tomatoes)

About ¾ cup panko bread crumbs (whole wheat is best if you can find them)

Another 2 Tablespoons Parmegiano regiano

First, cook the squash. I prefer roasting it for added flavor and color. To roast, you may wash and cut it into quarters .  OR you could peel it whilst whole and cut into cubes, which will cook a bit faster. Discard seeds or save them to roast like pumpkin seeds. 
Place squash into a rectangular baking dish, which you may line with foil. Add a little water and cover with foil, baking at 350 for about 45 minutes (30 minutes for cubes) and then uncover and cook for 15 minutes more.  Let it cool and peel if you have not yet.
Another method you could use to cook squash: simmer squash cubes on the stovetop in a large pot with water, about 25 minutes and drain.
 Once butternut is cooled. You may mash by hand or puree in a food processor with a bit of water.
Squash may be cooked and mashed ahead of time. Keep refrigerated.

Preheat oven to 375.
In a large pot, melt butter and add flour, cook for two minutes.
 At the same time, heat salted water in large deep pot for pasta. Once it is at a lively boil, add pasta. Keep the water boiling. Check for doneness
 To the butter and flour, add warmed milk and whisk or stir vigorously. Add the mashed squash and spices. Stir and cook for 8 minutes or so. If it looks too thick you can add a bit more milk.
Remove from heat and add Greek yogurt if using. Then stir in cheeses, mixing thoroughly.
Add well drained pasta and then place into a large rectangular dish that is lightly oiled ( I like to spray olive oil with misto sprayer).  
In a skillet heat 1 tablespoon butter and add panko crumbs stirring for about 2 minutes. Add 2  TBSP parmesan cheese, grated, salt and pepper if desired.
Thinly slice tomatoes and place on top of pasta. Top with bread crumbs and bake uncovered for about 20-25 minutes in a 375 degree oven.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Crunchy Seed Sprinkle

Seeds are such a good source of nutrition! The seeds in this recipes are powerhouses of minerals, vitamins, protein, fiber and nutrients. Plus, they taste really good.

You can use any kinds of seeds or nuts but here is a good mix to get you started.

Add this sprinkle on top of sliced fruits, yogurt, oatmeal, cereal, ice cream, toast with nut butter or just eat it by itself!

Crunchy Seed Sprinkle

1/3cup raw shelled pumpkin seeds

1/3 cup sunflower seeds

1/3 cup sliced almond

¼ c sesame seeds

3 tablespoons pure maple syrup

1/4 cup shredded coconut

¼ cup chia seeds

Kosher salt if needed to taste

Toast pumpkin seeds, almonds and sunflower seeds in a dry medium skillet over medium-low heat, tossing often, until golden, about1- 2 minutes. Add sesame and fennel seeds; toast, tossing often, until golden brown, about 1 minute more.

Mix in syrup; cook, stirring often, until clumps begin to form, about 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in coconut and chia seeds. Season with salt if needed. Transfer to a parchment or wax paper-lined baking sheet; let cool.

Other great seeds to include are hemp seed or flax seed meal. You could also add 2 tsp fennel, aniseed, caraway, or cumin seeds but be aware these will give a strong flavor.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Baked Delicata Squash filled with Ground Beef, Onion and Tomato

      Fall is here and so is Winter Squash Season! It should be an official designation because as so as the leaves change famers markets and grocery stores begin to fill up with winter squash. There is always a big bin of wonderful winter squash in our market and I bring quite a few home. Many of them that have hard skins, like Hubbard, and will last the whole winter but the Delicata which are discussing today is softer so it must be used within a few weeks.

Delicata is so easy to prepare as it does not need to be peeled; it has a softer skin which can be eaten. You can peel it easily if you prefer.  It has a flavorful flesh that is not overly sweet. It cooks up faster than many winter squash making it ideal for weekday dinners. It can be sliced and sautéed in olive oil with a drizzle of maple syrup if you want to play up the sweet notes or served plain with a little salt and pepper.It can be mixed into various grain dishes like farro or risotto.  It can be cut up and roasted with various glazes or herbs like sage and rosemary. It can be halved and baked and filled with quinoa or farro or bulgar or a savory meat mixture like our recipe today. I choose this meat filling tonight because some of the people at my table were not too sure if they would like delicata squash and they were more meat lovers. Next time I really want to try it with bulgar, spinach and tomato.

It is a truly fall dish as delicata is harder to find in the stores outside of its fall harvest time. Delicatas were not grown much after the 1930’s due to being susceptible to squash diseases. It has made a comeback after the early 2000’s when a disease resistant variety was cultivated. I could see delicatas becoming more popular like its cousins the acorn or butternut .  

Our first winter squash recipe of the year is very verstatile and easy to make. It can be prepared ahead and baked for 20 -25 minutes just before eating so it is perfect for week nights.

Baked Delicata Squash filled with Ground Beef, Onion and Tomato

2 medium- large delicate squash (or 3 small ones)
1 lb. ground beef 93% lean, or lean ground turkey or chicken or vegetarian substitute
1 medium red onion, peeled, trimmed, cut in half and sliced vertically
1 15 oz. or so can diced tomatoes
3+ cloves of garlic (or the garlic paste or minced jar equivalent)
1 tsp Italian herbs
½ tsp oregano or other herb of choice, optional
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp Onion powder
¼ tsp red pepper flake, optional
1 tsp salt (to taste)
Black pepper to taste
Grated parmesan or other cheese for garnish

Preheat oven to 375.

Wash delicata squash and cut in half lengthwise and scoop out seed.
In a rectangle baking dish, pre bake squash, uncovered, cut side down in ½ or so water.

Bake for about 10-15 minutes till slightly soft. (You may refrigerate these for use later.)

In a wide pan, begin to brown ground meat. Once it is just nicely browned on the outside, add onion. After a few minutes add seasoning, garlic and cook until meat is barely done and onion is soft. Add tomatoes and stir to combine. Taste and add more spice, herbs, salt or garlic if needed.

Turn the Delicata squash so the open side is up. Drain excess water from the baking dish. Fill the open space on the squash with meat mix and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 15 minutes until squash is soft. Bake uncovered for 5 minutes more.  You may add a bit of grated cheese before you  return it to oven.

Recipe By Dinner with Denise

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Meatballs in Tomato Curry Sauce

These spicy chicken and beef meatballs in tomato curry sauce certainly satisfied our craving for something flavorful .I served these spicy, saucy meatballs with vegetables only, skipping our typical accompaniment of rice because we are trying to limit carbs. Steamed vegetables were just right and we could scoop up the sauce with the meat balls themselves so we didn’t miss the rice but if you are not avoiding carbs then it would be perfect with rice or couscous.

 These can be made spicy or mild. If your diners don’t enjoy spice make the sauce with just a little or even none of the warmer spices like medium yellow curry powder, cumin, turmeric, garam marsala or Baharat. This could be tasty and mild!  We like spice so I may have even used more of the spices than listed here. This is totally up to you and your tastes!

 You may make these with ground chicken, beef or turkey just make sure that at least 1/3 or more of the meat is not extra lean. Meatballs need fat to be tender and hold together. You could even use half lean.
You can make the meatballs up to the shaping step and refrigerate for quick preparation. You could even freeze them on a baking sheet then bag them so they are on hand when you want them! You could make the sauce up even a day or two before. If you wish to cook meatballs ahead, you might have a little drier texture but they would be fine but, cook them all the way through, don’t just brown them. This would shorten the time you reheat them in the sauce.

Meatballs in Tomato Curry Sauce
Recipe By Dinner with Denise

Meatball Mixture:

½ cup minced onion
2 tsp garlic paste or crushed garlic
2 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp, salt, coriander, ginger,

½ -1 tsp optional spices to choose from: cumin, black pepper, ginger powder, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes
2 tsp corn starch
2 lb. or so ground chicken and ground beef
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 egg, well beaten

Curry Sauce:
Adjust all spice to your taste
1 large onion, sliced, divided in two
2 TBSP ginger paste
1TBSP garlic crushed
3-4 Tsp medium yellow curry powder
1 tsp cumin ground
½ tsp turmeric
2 tsp garam marsala or Baharat
1 -2 tsp coriander, ground
1 tsp black pepper. 
2 tsp salt, more to taste
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp onion powder
1  can diced or crushed tomatoes, about 14 oz.
1 cup water

About 6 oz. plain Greek yogurt, adjust to taste
Optional garnishes -Cilantro, toasted almond, yogurt
Serve with steamed veggies—carrot, zucchini, cauliflower etc.
Optional-- serve with rice, quinoa, Or couscous

Meat balls
*I use 1/3 lean chicken, 1/3 lean ground beef and 1/3 80% ground chicken but any combo, or all chicken or all beef is fine.

All of the spices can be increased or decreased based on desired heat level.
Place all ingredients for meatball mixture in a large bowl, gently yet thoroughly combine. Using gloved or clean hands is a great way to blend everything.
Using small scoop or teaspoon, scoop out uniform sized meatballs; rolling each for a smooth exterior.  You may make the meatballs smaller or larger as desired.
If you wish to cook meatballs in oven, check the note**
Heat a bit of oil in a large shallow pan. HALF of the onion and sauté it for 5 minutes and remove to covered dish.
Add some of the meatballs to the pan without crowding so they will brown well. You may add a bit more oil only if needed. You will probably need to brown them in batches, removing them as they are done to a covered dish.  The meatballs do not have to be cooked through; this is just to brown the outside. Cook them over medium heat, turning gently after 3-5 minutes.  Brown the other sides for about 3-5 minutes. take meatballs from pan to a covered dish and remove excess oil from pan. You will cook sauce in the same pan.

If desired, leave pan of meatballs in 350 oven while you cook curry sauce or microwave for a couple minutes on medium.
To make curry sauce:
Heat about 3-4 TBSP more oil in the pan, add the rest of the sliced onion, ginger, garlic, spices, seasoning.
Sauté for 4 minutes or so. 
Add tomatoes; simmer for 5-7 minutes. Add cool water and ladle into blender. Blend until smooth. Add yogurt and blend a bit more. Return sauce to pan and gently nestle the meatballs and sautéed onions into sauce. Over low heat, bring to simmer but do not let it boil.  Simmer for 15 – 22 minutes or so on low until meatballs are cooked through. I take one out and open it to check, it is really hard to use thermometer on these.

Best served in a bowl topped with cilantro and perhaps some toasted almond slices or yogurt

Serve with steamed vegetable OR quinoa OR if you are not avoiding carbs try it over couscous or rice,

**Oven baking method:  Preheat oven to 400 and put meatballs on cookie sheet prepped with a bit of oil. Place in center of oven and bake for 6 minutes then turn them over to cook other side. Continue baking another 5 minutes or until just barely cooked through. Remove from baking dish and place them into pan filled with curry sauce.  Simmer for 15 minutes




Monday, February 22, 2016

Creamy Asparagus Soup with Avocado

I was in the mood for a very creamy soup so I put together this velvety mix of tender asparagus, potato, avocado and a dollop of sour cream.

This was a wondrously silky soup and it can easily be made dairy free by trading out the butter for all olive oil and exchanging the sour cream dollop with extra avocado! The soup would be vegan with these changes as well as choosing vegetable broth.
On the other hand, I think this soup could be made without the avocado if you add extra sour cream. This is a really versatile recipe and you could change it around easily to suite your needs!

Creamy Asparagus Soup with Avocado

3 TBSP butter, OR 3 TBSP olive oil  OR 1 ½ TBSP each
1 small onion, white or sweet, diced
1 large or 2 small potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 bunch asparagus, washed with tough end snapped off

1-2 clove garlic
Salt and pepper to taste, I used about a tsp of salt and a few grinds of pepper
½ -1 tsp lemon pepper
1 tsp ginger paste, optional

½ tsp garlic powder

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1 small avocado

1/3 cup sour cream  Optional, may skip and add another small avocado


In a large deep pot, heat butter or oil on medium low heat.  Add onion and cook for 4 minutes.

Then add potatoes and while the potatoes and onion cook for eight minutes or so, cut the asparagus into 1 inch pieces reserving  the tender tips to add later.

Add asparagus, except reserved tip pieces to the pot. Add garlic, spices and seasoning g. Cook stirring occasionally for a few more minutes then add broth.

Simmer for about 30 minutes or until all of the vegetables are very tender. This will probably be longer than you would normally cook vegetables and it may make you nervous but they need to be soft to puree completely to a silky consistency.

Remove soup from the heat and add avocado and sour cream, if you are using it.

Next you will let the soup cool a bit so you can puree it.

While you are cooling soup you can quickly steam the asparagus tips to tender crispness or you can wait and add them to the soup after it is pureed and cook them right in the soup. If you choose to steam them separately it will mean another pan to wash but you have more control over cooking it. But it would be fine to heat in the soup at a low temperature after it is pureed.

To puree, you may use a blender, which will probably yield the silkiest soup or a hand held immersion blender which is less clean up and can do a good job.   Either way let the soup cool before blending. If using a blender, I let it cool a bit longer and don’t overfill your blender.

Blend soup until silky and smooth. Return soup to the pan and heat up on low. Add asparagus pieces. Enjoy your creamy soup!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Biscuits - Soft, lofty and easy to make!

These soft, tender biscuits are a snap to make! They rise nicely in the oven and taste great. This is a basic baking soda biscuit recipe that uses simple ingredients you keep on hand.  I love that they can be frozen for later, what a great time saver and it means that you can make a big batch and only take out as many as you need .

You can make them with regular milk and a teaspoon of vinegar or use buttermilk for an even better flavor.

Remember not to over work them. Biscuits are not bread and you do not want to knead it like bread or it will toughen the biscuits! When you cut them, just press straight down without a twist or they will not rise as high. You may reroll the scraps to use them all up but the rerolled ones will be a little tougher.

I don't often use shortening but on occasion I really like it for pie crust and these biscuits. At least the newer versions of shortening do not have trans fat. Use more butter if you like.

These are not the most nutritious food but they are good comfort food with a nice bowl of soup or smothered in honey! All things in moderation…okay pass me a biscuit :-)

I will add a recipe or two to use with biscuits next time. Maybe Biscuits with sausage gravy...


Biscuits - Soft, lofty and easy to make!

2 cups white unbleached flour
1 Tablespoon Baking powder
1 Tablespoon white sugar
1 tsp salt

5   Tablespoons shortening, butter flavored, no-trans fat
2 Tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

1 cup milk, whole or buttermilk, May not need it all

1 tsp. white vinegar, optional  if using milk just  add vinegar to it  but omit if you use buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Then turn it down to 425 when you put the biscuits in the oven.

In a large bowl,  mix  together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.

Cut in the shortening/butter with a a pastry cutter or two butter knives until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Or you may use fingers to break up shortening into flour then add butter bits and mix.

Gradually gently stir in milk until dough pulls away from the side of the bowl. You may use wooden spoon or your hands to stir.

Turn out onto a well-floured surface, and gently fold/knead 6 -8 times. Do not overwork!! Gentle folding makes tender biscuits.

Roll dough out to 1 inch thick. Cut biscuits straight down with a large cutter ( about 2 inch or so)  or use wide glass dipped in flour.  Do not twist when cutting biscuits.

Place biscuits onto an ungreased baking sheet which may be lined with parchment paper. For nice browned exteriors, place them an inch apart or more.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until top, bottom and edges begin to brown.

Note: You may brush with cream and dust these with cinnamon sugar before baking for a sweeter biscuit.

You can freeze these before cooking and then bake them later. Place the biscuits to freeze in a greased freezer Ziploc bag on cookie sheet or pie tin to freeze then remove the sheet or pie tin and leave the biscuits in the bag for freezer storage. To bake heat oven to 450 and cook for 8-10 minutes then turn the oven off but leave the biscuits in for another 6 -7 minutes. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Farro with Roasted Mushroom, Fennel and Onion topped with an Egg

I love roasted vegetables and I am always on the lookout for different ways to serve them. I also love farro, a nice chewy whole grain. There are loads of recipes on the web that combine farro with mushrooms and onion, because it is a rather perfect pairing.  There was a nice fennel bulb in my fridge so I added that to the mix. It adds a sweet crunch. 

I wanted to roast the vegetables  to give a nice toasty flavor and firm texture with a bit of caramelization. For roasting, don't slice anything too thin and try to keep them consistent.

I use a quick cooking farro from Trader Joe’s. It cooks in 10 minutes. You could  substitute quick cooking barley or brown rice in this recipe,  just cook it according to package instructions.

 Farro with Roasted Mushroom, Fennel and Onion topped with an Egg 

On the Roasting sheet:

8 oz. white button or cremini mushrooms, cleaned and thickly sliced
1 medium fennel bulb, fronds removed. Sliced vertically
1/2 large sweet onion, sliced vertically
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp crushed rosemary
½ tsp salt
½ tsp garlic powder

In the Sauce pan:
1 cup quick cooking farro,—(10 minute Farro from Trader Joe’s or other cooked according to package instructions
½ sweet onion chopped
1 TBSP olive oil
½ tsp crushed rosemary
½ tsp thyme
 ¼ tsp red pepper flake
2 cups broth or water
¼ cup chopped parsley, optional

2-4 eggs, one per person, optional but recommended

Preheat oven to 375F

Place a bit of olive oil on a rectangle baking sheet. On one half of the baking sheet, place the sliced mushrooms and on the other half put the fennel and ½ of the onion. Don't over crowd.  By the way, vertically slice by cutting onion and fennel bulb in half and then slice it. Sprinkle with spice and salt and a light drizzle of olive oil. Several times during roasting, use a spatula to turn it over and mix, moving outside pieces to center.

In a sauce pan, heat a TBSP olive oil and begin sautéing onion and garlic. Cook until onion begins to caramelize. Add spice and  farro. Let it saute for another minute.  Stir in broth and bring to boil over med high heat, covered. Boil for two minutes and lower heat and cover. 

Let it simmer for 10 minutes. If there is a lot of liquid left, drain a bit off. Remove from heat and let it sit for five minutes while covered.

Remove roasted veggies when they are beginning to get caramelized and edges are crisping a bit.

Cook up eggs by poaching or fry/baste. Season with salt and pepper. You can skip eggs but adds a nice taste and texture and it makes this a satisfying meal in a bowl!

Add roasted mushrooms, onions and fennel to farro. 

Place in bowls, sprinkle with parsley and top with an egg.