Tag Archives: butternut squash

Opposites Attract

“I just don’t have the time!”  The lament of so many busy people.  Yet, what are we spending our time on?  The average American spends 4-6 hours per day in front of the television; not to mention, computers, games and phones.  Ok, I do like my techno gadgets, but I love good, wholesome food more.

Cooking has become a spectator sport.  We love to watch, but don’t participate.  But I’m here to tell you, cooking can be fun, entertaining and therapeutic.  Get everyone into the act.  I call my family and friends who want to help in the kitchen: “my sous.”  We laugh, we joke and above all we eat well.  We manage to find time for the things that are important to us.  There are so many meals that simply don’t take a lot of time.  Soups, stews, salads can all be eaten for multiple days, or frozen for future use.  In the time it takes to have a pizza delivered you can have a healthy meal on the table.

In the winter there is sometimes an absence of the type of salads that I enjoyed during the growing season.  I found that if you eat seasonally and try putting some unexpected ingredients together, you are often pleasantly surprised.  In my last post, I used roasted pears as a garnish on my butternut squash soup.  A few days later, I tried the same pairing in a different way in a salad and the results were yumbo-yummy!  Although the dressing is not strictly Paleo, I took creative license for the flavor I was looking for; see what you think…

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Roasted Winter Salad with Lime/Balsamic Vinaigrette:

  • 4 cups butternut squash, cubed in 3/4 inch dice
  • 3 Bosch pears, cored, seeded and sliced in 6ths
  • 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups fresh kale, torn in bite-sized pieces
  • 2 cups fresh spinach, torn in bite-sized pieces
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1/4 cup dried tart cherries, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh local feta, crumbled
  • 1 recipe Lime/Balsamic Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
  1. Preheat oven to 450 F.  Position rack in center of oven.  In a large bowl, combine squash and pear slices with olive oil.  Toss well and transfer in a single layer to a jelly-roll pan lined with parchment paper.  Sprinkle with a little Kosher salt.  Roast, flipping with a spatula halfway through and rotating the pan until they are soft and caramelized; approximately 20-25 minutes. Set aside.
  2. Toss the greens with 2 Tbsp of the warm vinaigrette, salt and place on a platter or individual plates. Scatter the squash cubes and pear slices on top, then sprinkle with almonds, tart cherries and feta.  Pass extra dressing.

Lime/Balsamic Vinaigrette:

  • 1/4 cup grapeseed oil (non-Paleo)
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced shallots
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp. finely grated lime zest
  • 1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat.  Add the shallots and a little salt and saute, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned.  Remove from heat.  Let cool for 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small heatproof bowl, whisk the vinegar, maple syrup, lime juice and zest, mustard, and a few grinds of fresh pepper.  Whisk the warm oil into the vinegar mixture until emulsified.  Season to taste with more juice, salt or pepper.

Serve 2 as a main, 4 as a side

Proof that salads can be fresh and roasted.  Opposites attract!

Proof that salads can be fresh and roasted. Opposites attract!

“Remember….even small changes can make a difference!”

Not The Same Old……..

Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner

Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner

It’s always a little disconcerting, but change is hard.  I did things a certain way for so long that when the need arose to upend my culinary avenues, I experienced a certain sense of loss.  When this feeling would raise its ugly little head, I would repeat the following mantra, “Don’t cling to the past, embrace the new!”   I needed to set my “Curious George” free.  So I did.  Similar to learning a new instrument, a new sport, a new hobby; cooking within certain parameters didn’t have to be boring.

I also recognized that my personality and sensibilities also needed to be acknowledged.  For example, my addiction to snacking (particularly crunchy, salty) would have to be addressed.  I found that the “out of sight, out of mind” approach worked well after I got through the first 2 weeks.  I also had healthy choices on hand, like apples with almond butter, when I needed a snack.  I have always chaffed under restrictions, so I didn’t want to follow some plan like a religion.  This requires that I honestly evaluate how I feel after each meal.  Even the new can lead to healthy habits over time.  I would need to befriend: patience and persistence.

The past week here in southwest Michigan, has been bitter cold.  With wind chills as low as -25 degrees, our wood-burner has been working overtime. Soups and stews were definitely on the docket. We stocked up on winter squash in late fall at the farmer’s market: butternut, spaghetti and acorn.  I’m particularly fond of butternut.  Its so versatile.  When it comes to soup, butternut is my go to squash.  Typically made with Granny Smith apple to accentuate its inherent sweetness; I always lean toward the savory.  I also prefer to roast the butternut, rather than boil it.  It takes a little longer, but the depth it creates is worth it.  I nestle in some Bosch pear slices while I’m at it as an unexpected garnish; and the oven helps keep our kitchen warm.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

  • 2 butternut squash, halved with seeds removed
  • 3 cups homemade chicken stock (or gluten-free in a carton)
  • 3 shallots, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp Maldon salt
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper flakes
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp Braggs apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 lb bacon, chopped, fried until crisp, drained on paper towels
  • 1 Bosch pear, cored and cut into sixths,
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh chives
Roasted Bosch pears

Roasted Bosch pears

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

  1.  Cut two butternut squash in half from top to bottom, remove seeds, rub cut sides with olive oil and place cut side down on a jelly-roll pan lined with parchment paper.  Bake for 50-60 minutes or until soft when pierce with fork.  Let cool.  Scoop out flesh from each half and puree in blender or food processor in batches with chicken broth. Set aside.
  2. Roast Bosch pear on parchment paper for 20-25 minutes until soft and caramelized.  Set aside.
  3. Heat small dry skillet on medium-high.  Add cumin seeds and toast until fragrant and slightly browned, about 1-2 minutes.  Grind in mortar and pestle.  Set aside.  If mortar and pestle is not available, use ground cumin.
  4. In large pot or Dutch oven, heat 1 Tbsp ghee (clarified butter) or olive oil on medium heat.  Add shallots and saute until soft about 3-4 minutes.  Add garlic, cumin, ginger, salt, cinnamon and Aleppo pepper and saute an additional 2 minutes, being careful not to brown.
  5. Add pureed squash, chicken broth and apple cider vinegar to pot.  Simmer on medium-low until heated through.
  6. Serve in individual bowls.  Garnish each bowl with a slice of roasted pear, sprinkle with bacon and chives.

Serves 4-6

Savory and warming butternut squash soup

Savory and warming butternut squash soup

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking.  It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”     —–Albert Einstein