Mashed winter squash

Orange squashes are supposedly a superfood so I want to eat more of them. I like mashed things and of course anything that has butter and sugar in it, so I found this recipe in The Joy Of Cooking for mashed winter squash. Like the chicken I made before, it’s sort of a no-brainer and doesn’t really need a recipe, but who knows, maybe I’ll learn something new about squash.

Joy calls for whole winter squash that’s been cut up and skin left on- I bought it already cut up and skinned because I am lazy. And because I thought that’s all Trader Joe’s had—when I noticed out of the corner of my eye that they had the whole ones, I quietly snuck away and didn’t look (I’m sure it’s like 10 times cheaper in whole form). It’s hard to cut up butternut squash (I do not recommend it) so it’s better if I just pretend they don’t have it!

Pre-cut butternut squash from Trader Joe's

Pre-cut butternut squash from Trader Joe's

Now, to make pureed or mashed squash normally I would boil it. But no, Joy calls for baking it at 375 degrees. Sort of…with water. So, like steaming it in the oven? I dunno, but I did it anyway. I was supposed to put the cut-up squash onto a rimmed baking sheet then add 1/4 inch of water and cover with foil. First of all that sounds messy and easy to spill—seriously, 1/4 inch of water on a rimmed baking sheet is practically to the top! And second, I don’t have a rimmed baking sheet. So I used a pie pan. The squash fit perfectly in the pie pan! And the 1/4 inch of water was not anywhere near the top, so no spillage risk.

Joy says that “if desired” halfway through cooking you can brush some butter and sprinkle some brown sugar and nutmeg (or another spice) on it. Well, OF COURSE I “desire” to do this, but since I’m going to be mashing it with butter and brown sugar later, I’ll just leave it alone for now. I wonder if doing that halfway through would add some depth to the flavor. Or if it would just caramelize and get weird and lumpy when mashing later. I dunno, maybe next time I’ll try it. It took about 40 minutes to get to the tender point.

Wow, so this recipe calls for lots of things! Some are optional. Here’s what I opted to use. Since my kitchen is SO SMALL you also get to see things that aren’t in the recipe but are in the kitchen. Like onions. And bananas.

All the stuff needed to make delicious mashed squash.

All the stuff needed to make delicious mashed squash.

I bet you’re curious now, huh? What is all that stuff? You’ll see.

Ok so Joy says to mash the squash with a fork or masher. Then, for every cup of squash mix in 1 TBS butter, 1 tsp brown sugar or maple syrup (I used brown sugar), 1/4th tsp salt, 1/8th tsp ground ginger, 1/8th tsp ground cinnamon (optional). Then you’re supposed to beat it well with  warm heavy cream or orange juice (doesn’t say how much but just to make a soft, smooth puree, also I am going to use a little of both). Then serve it sprinkled with (optional) raisins or chopped nuts. Raisins OR chopped nuts? As if those are interchangeable. Gross. Raisins. I don’t have any chopped nuts laying around, so no on those.  Also optional topping: 1/4 cup well drained crushed pineapple. I have fresh pineapple here! So, what the heck. Let. Us. Do. This. Thing.

All the ingredients, ready to mix.

All the ingredients, ready to mix.

I used a hand mixer to puree the squash. It came out tasty but a strange texture. Not smooth. Not sure if I didn’t cook it long enough or what. I pureed it for like ever and the texture never got any better. Also, it was a bit on the thin side. I probably used too much juice/cream. But the flavor was really good. The pineapple was good, made it sort of festive. It wouldn’t lose much without it, tho. Then again, whenever you can get extra fruit into your diet, you should. Spices like cinnamon and ginger, too for that matter.

Festive pineapple topping.

Festive pineapple topping.

Served with leftover chicken and some green beans.

Served with leftover chicken and some green beans.

 

Healthy meal ideas

Happy new year! Like almost everyone else, my new years resolutions usually involve plans to eat healthier. One year I actually did it! My idea of healthy eating doesn’t involve “low fat’ or “low carb” or anything else “low”. It consists of natural, fresh, minimally processed REAL food. Like Michael Pollan says ” eat food, not too much, mostly plants”.  In the past I’ve talked about how I do this on a reasonable budget.

So, here are lots of ideas. Not only are these basically healthy ideas, but they’re also mostly really easy and quick.

Warm potato and arugula salad, Whole Foods roasted lima beans, caprese salad, chicken salad with grapes (roast chicken, mayo, plain yogurt, sliced grapes):

Healthy meal.

Healthy meal.

I make roast chicken a couple times a month. One chicken will last 3 or 4 days and can be used in many different ways. This is a “bowl” with the roast chicken, some steamed broccoli, and warm pasta salad with tomatoes, feta chunks, basil, and olive oil.

Chicken pasta bowl

Chicken pasta bowl

Nothing is easier to make than eggs. Here’s a fried egg, some oven roasted potatoes, and a nice big green salad with veggies.

Eggs and salad

Eggs and salad

Fried eggs again. This time with a composed salad of greens, orange bell peppers, feta, and grape tomatoes. I also made some tzatziki, some hummus and some whole whole wheat pita.

Eggs again!

Eggs again!

Chicken posole and a green salad with lots of veggies. For dressing I usually just use olive oil and vinegar.

A big green salad and some chicken posole

A big green salad and some chicken posole

The best and easiest black bean soup, green salad with leftover roast chicken.

Black bean soup and grilled chicken salad

Black bean soup and grilled chicken salad

I really like one bowl meals. One of the healthiest things you can eat is mixed veggies. This is onions, broccoli, orange bell peppers, and corn sauteed in some olive oil. I probably either servied this in a bowl of rice and black beans or in a taco.

Veggie bowl

Veggie bowl

I hope these ideas help you in your quest to eat healthier. Let me know what you eat when you want to be healthier!

Salad roundup

I love salads. We’re getting out of salad weather here in Chicago, but I thought I’d post a bunch of them anyway. Maybe you’ll get some ideas for your own salads.

Caprese salad with farmers market tomatoes, basil, olive oil, and fresh mozerella.

Caprese salad with farmers market tomatoes, basil, olive oil, and fresh mozzarella.

Potato arugula salad with mustard dressing.

Potato arugula salad with mustard dressing.

Another caprese salad, with cherry tomatoes.

Another caprese salad, with cherry tomatoes.

Chicken salad with mayo, dried cranberries, and walnuts.

Chicken salad with mayo, dried cranberries, and walnuts.

Salad with various home grown lettuces, tomatoes, and chives.

Salad with various home grown lettuces, tomatoes, and chives.

Salad with home grown lettuce, cherry and grape tomatoes, and cucumbers.

Salad with home grown lettuce, cherry and grape tomatoes, and cucumbers.

Tossed Greek salad with tomatoes, feta, olives, cucumbers, and dried herbs.

Tossed Greek salad with tomatoes, feta, olives, cucumbers, and dried herbs.

Home grown salad fixins.

Home grown salad fixins.

Tossed salad with tomatoes, bell peppers, and parm.

Tossed salad with tomatoes, bell peppers, and parm.

Home grown cherry tomatoes, feta with olive oil and herbs, and bell peppers with lettuce.

Home grown cherry tomatoes, feta with olive oil and herbs, and bell peppers with lettuce.

Salad with corn, tomatoes, black beans, and parm.

Salad with corn, tomatoes, black beans, and parm.

Butter lettuce with olives, feta, white beans, and a fried egg.

Butter lettuce with olives, feta, white beans, and a fried egg.

Garden fresh salad

Garden fresh salad.

Lettuce, cherry tomatoes, green beans, and cucumbers.

Lettuce, cherry tomatoes, green beans, and cucumbers.

Lettuce, cucumbers, green beans, chicken and blue cheese dressing.

Lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans, chicken and blue cheese dressing.

Lettuce, green beans, and parm.

Lettuce, green beans, and parm.

Caprese salad.

Caprese salad.

Pasta salad with arugula, tomatoes, white beans, corn, and chicken.

Pasta salad with arugula, tomatoes, white beans, corn, and chicken.

 

 

Are sweet potatoes good with oatmeal?

Yes! It’s delicious and healthy, too.

I’m always looking for ways to have protein at breakfast. I know you’re going to say sweet potatoes and oatmeal don’t have any protein! By themselves they don’t but together, they’re OK. A serving of oatmeal has about 5 grams, a serving of sweet potatoes has about 4.  Add some nuts (3-4 grams depending on what kind and how much) and some milk (4-8 grams depending on how much) and you’re doing pretty well as far as having some protein for breakfast. Plus sweet potatoes have tons of other vitamins and fiber.

Oatmeal with sweet potatoes and almonds.

Oatmeal with sweet potatoes and almonds.

There’s really no recipe for this. It’s pretty flexible. I made some sweet potatoes specifically for this – just wash them, prick them with a fork, wrap them in aluminum foil, and bake them at 400 degrees. They take at least an hour, depending on how big they are — start checking them after an hour — they’re done when they are soft and easy to squeeze. Of course it would be faster if you already had some leftover sweet potatoes on hand.

I made the oatmeal as usual, and added some dried cranberries (optional) while it was cooking. Then once it was cooked I added the cooked sweet potatoes to it. I put it in two bowls, added a pat of butter, some brown sugar, some chopped almonds, and some milk to each bowl. Next time I’ll add some cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice, which would be really good.

Sweet potato oatmeal with almonds, cranberries, and brown sugar.

Sweet potato oatmeal with almonds, cranberries, and brown sugar.

Blue cheese and broccoli quiche

I love quiche, frittatas, omelettes, and souffles and make one or the other at least once a week. Eggs are cheap, versatile and healthy and quiche isn’t as hard to make as some people think. I recently made one with a pat-in-the-pan crust, which makes it even easier. Pat-in-the-pan crust is different than regular crust. It’s more crumbly than flaky which works well with the creamy filling.

Blue cheese and broccoli quiche

Blue cheese and broccoli quiche

Crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter cut up into 8 or 10 pieces
  • 3 TBS cream

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Add the butter and mix with your fingers till it resembles coarse crumbs. Then add the cream and mix with a fork till it sticks together.

Take the dough and put it in a 9 inch pie pan or square baking dish. Literally pat it into the bottom and sides of the pan- no rolling or chilling necessary. This is super convenient if like mine, your kitchen is insanely small.

Prick the crust a few times with a fork and cook it for 10-15 minutes till it’s golden brown.

Meanwhile make the filling:

  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped or thinly sliced
  • 1 cup broccoli, chopped
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • salt
  • pepper

Heat the butter and olive oil in a heavy skillet. Add the onions and cook to your liking. You can just barely cook them till they’re translucent, or you can wait till they get caramelized. I like them more cooked than less. Once they’re cooked to your liking, add the broccoli and cook until it’s done to your liking as well.

Mix the eggs, milk, cream, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.

Once the crust is done it’s time to assemble the quiche. Reduce the oven to 350.

Sprinkle 1/4 cup of cheddar on the bottom of the crust. Then add the onion broccoli mixture, then add the egg mixture. Top it with the rest of the cheddar and the blue cheeses.

Cook at 350 for about 40 minutes until the quiche is set and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

Let the quiche cool for 10-20 minutes and serve. It’s also delicious cold later on.