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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Butternut Squash

 

Cuban cuisine is a blend of Native American Taino food, Spanish, African, and Caribbean cuisines. Some Cuban recipes share spices and techniques with Spanish and African cooking, with some Caribbean influence in spice and flavor. This results in a blend of the several different cultural influences, with strong similarities to the cuisine of the neighboring Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. A small Chinese influence can also be accounted for in the Havana area. There is also some Italian influence. During colonial times, Cuba was an important port for trade, and many Spaniards who lived there brought their culinary traditions with them.

A majority of the dishes are sautéed or slow-cooked over a low flame. Most Cuban cooking relies on garlic, cumin, oregano, and bay laurel leaves and uses a sofrito as a base in main dishes. Sofrito consists of onion, green pepper, garlic, oregano, and ground pepper quick-fried in olive oil.

Meats and poultry are usually marinated in citrus juices, such as lime or sour orange juices, and then roasted over low heat until the meat is tender. Root vegetables such as yuca, malanga, and boniato are common in the cuisine. These vegetables are flavored with a marinade, called mojo, which includes olive oil, lemon juice, sliced raw onions, garlic, cumin, and a little water. The steak recipe below includes all those flavors.

Cuban Style Steak

Ingredients

Marinade
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon steak seasoning
¼ teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon lime zest
3-4 fresh orange slices
1 teaspoon salt
1 flank steak, patted dry

Salsa
1 large jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 small red onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons cilantro paste
½ teaspoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon lime zest
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

To make the marinade:
Combine the marinade ingredients together in a large ziplock bag.
Add the steak, close the bag and massage the marinade into the meat; set aside for 30 minutes or refrigerate for up to 12 hours.

To make the salsa:
Combine the jalapeno, onion, cilantro, lime juice, water, oil, honey, hot sauce, salt and lime zest in a serving bowl for a chunky salsa-like consistency.

To cook the steak:
Light a grill or grill pan and 
oil the grate. Remove the steak from the marinade, letting the excess drip off. Grill over moderate heat, turning once, until lightly charred and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part registers 125°, 10 to 12 minutes.
Remove steak to a serving plate and cover loosely with aluminum foil; let rest for 10 minutes before thinly slicing against the grain.

Serve the steak with the salsa.

Bake the squash and tomatoes in the oven at the same time.

Oven Baked Spiralized Butternut Squash

Ingredients

1/2 of a butternut squash spiralized or 2 containers of spiralized butternut squash from the market
Olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
Sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of fresh parsley
4 tablespoons of parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Place the squash noodles on a large baking sheet, with sides, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss the squash to coat it all.


Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, tossing the squash once or twice with tongs during the cooking process. Place the squash in a serving bowl.
Heat the butter, and garlic in a small microwave dish or small pan. Pour the butter sauce over the squash and toss. Add the parsley and cheese and toss again. Serve immediately.

Stuffed Tomatoes

Ingredients

2 medium ripe tomatoes
½ cup cooked spinach or swiss chard, drained
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons Parmesan Cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Combine the spinach, mozzarella, garlic, olive oil & red pepper flakes in a small bowl – set aside.

Cut a thin slice off the top of the tomatoes and remove the seeds & juice. Season the insides of the tomatoes with salt and pepper. Using a spoon, fill each tomato with the spinach stuffing mixture. Place in a small, shallow baking dish. Sprinkle the top of each tomato with 1 tablespoon of Parmesan cheese. Bake 20 minutes and serve.

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Ribeye Pork Chops

Ingredients

2 bone-in ribeye pork chops, 2 inches thick weighing about 16 oz each
Your Favorite Rub For Pork
Your Favorite BBQ Sauce
Here is a link to my favorite pork rub and BBQ Sauce:

https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2017/07/14/weekend-bbq/

Directions

Coat the pork all over with the rub mixture. Place the pork in an oiled baking dish and cover the dish with foil.

Preheat the oven to 250°F. Place the foil-covered baking dish in the oven and roast the pork for about 2 1/2 hours, or until the meat is tender but not falling off the bone. The pork will finish cooking on the grill.

Heat an outdoor grill or grill pan to medium-high. Oil the grill rack.

Brush the pork with BBQ sauce and place them on the grill. Grill the pork, turning occasionally, until the chops begin to char, about 5 to 6 minutes.

Crispy Baked Butternut Squash

Servings 4

Ingredients

1 butternut squash peeled and cut into spirals
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray. Place the butternut squash in a ziplock bag with the oil. Shake the bag.

Arrange the squash on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes, or until caramelized and charred in spots.

Turn the spirals over after 10 minutes. Serve immediately.

Twice Baked Cauliflower

6 Servings

Ingredients

1 medium head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into large florets
4 cloves garlic, diced
4 green onions, diced
8 strips bacon, diced
1/2 cup sour cream
4 ounces cream cheese
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Put the cauliflower florets in a large ziplock bag and add the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Shake the bag and turn the florets out onto a baking sheet.

Roast until the florets are soft and begin to brown, about 30 minutes.

Cook the bacon in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until brown and crispy, 6 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.

Place the roasted cauliflower florets in the processor with the garlic and green onions. Process until almost smooth. Add the cream cheese and sour cream and process until smooth.

Pour the cauliflower puree into an oiled medium=sized baking dish. Sprinkle the top with the cooked bacon and cheddar cheese. Bake uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes.

 


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How many folks still hold with tradition and have “Sunday Dinner”? Growing up in my house, a big dinner with family members occurred every week. Family time and lots of good food are Italian American traditions. Once I was married and had children, we didn’t always live near family members. I think this is a common factor today. As a small family we always had dinner together, weeknights and weekends, but they were not the typical big feasts of old. Sunday meals were not much different from weeknight meals, usually. I thought this week I would make a traditional Sunday dinner featuring seasonal ingredients and a roast – a pork roast. The only thing missing from this dinner is the first course pasta dish that we always had in the old days.

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Herb-Crusted Pork Roast

Ingredients

One 3 pound top loin, bone-in pork roast, fat trimmed
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tablespoon coarse or kosher salt
¼ cup minced herbs (I used sage, rosemary, tarragon, oregano and basil)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup dry white wine
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Pat the pork loin dry with paper towels. Place the roast on a platter or in a baking dish. Rub the roast with the olive oil and press the herbs and salt onto all the sides of the roast.

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Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (up to 24 hours). Bring to room temperature for 1 hour before roasting.

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Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Place the roast on a rack that has been placed inside a roasting pan and cook for 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, turn the roast over and baste with 1/4 cup of the wine.

Return the roast to the oven and reduce the temperature to 325°F. Cook for 60-75 minutes longer, turning the roast and basting it with wine every 20 minutes; reserve 1/4 cup of wine for the sauce.

Check the roast after it has been cooking for 60 minutes. Place a meat thermometer in the roast to determine if it has reached 150 -155 degrees F.

If not, continue cooking until the temperature is reached.

Transfer the roast to a platter and pour the pan juices into a measuring cup.

Place the roasting pan over moderate heat on the stove-top; when it starts to sizzle, add the reserved 1/4 cup wine and cook for 2 minutes, scraping up the drippings from the bottom of the pan.

Add to the pan juices in the measuring cup; let the fat rise to the surface, about 5 minutes. Skim off the fat and season the sauce with black pepper.

Carve the roast into thin slices and arrange the meat on a platter. Serve the pan juices on the side.

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Roasted Butternut Squash Puree

I prefer to cook the squash whole. Uncooked butternut squash is a difficult to cut through, however, after baking, it is very easy.

This recipe makes about 2 1/2 cups.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Wash a 2 to 2 1/2 pound butternut squash and place it on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Bake for about 90 minutes or until soft all over, turning the squash halfway through the baking time.

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Cool slightly and cut the squash in half and remove the seeds. With a spoon, scoop the flesh into a bowl and mash the squash.

Stir in 2 tablespoons butter, 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, salt and black pepper to taste.

You can make this early in the day or the day before. Reheat before serving.

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Sautéed Peas

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 celery stalk including the leaves at the top, finely chopped
10 ounce package of frozen peas (or 2 cups fresh peas)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Directions

Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat; add the onions and cook until tender. Add celery and peas.

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Cook until peas are heated through (about 6 minutes). Stir in salt and pepper and serve.

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Apple Rosemary Tart

Ingredients

One 9 inch refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 pounds baking apples, such as Granny Smith or Golden Delicious
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary (do not substitute dried) or 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons confectioners’ sugar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

In a small bowl, combine the flour with 1 tablespoon of the brown sugar; reserve.

Peel and core the apples. Slice them into ¼ inch-thick slices. (You should have about 3 cups.)

Place the apples in a bowl and toss them with the lemon juice, the remaining 3 tablespoons brown sugar and the rosemary or cinnamon.

Place the dough on a parchment lined baking sheet and sprinkle the reserved flour/sugar mixture evenly over it, leaving a 2-inch border uncovered.

Arrange the apples evenly over the flour mixture. Fold the edges of the dough over the apples. Moisten your fingers lightly with water and gently press the creases so that they hold together.

Dot the apples with the butter.

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Bake the tart for about 40 minutes, until the crust is golden brown, the apples are tender and the juices syrupy.

Cover the tart with foil halfway through the cooking time, if the crust is browning too rapidly. Let cool for 10 minutes, then slide the tart onto a serving platter.

Just before serving, sift the confectioners’ sugar evenly over the crust.


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You may recall that I posted recipes over the past few weeks for Butternut Squash Gratin and Braised Steak. Naturally we had plenty leftover, so I created a few new ways to use the leftovers other than just heating them up again.

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Butternut Squash Gnocchi

Ingredients

Sauce

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 12 sage leaves, sliced

Directions

Combine the butternut squash gratin, ricotta, egg and salt together in a large bowl. Add 2 cups of the flour and mix well with your hands.

Add the remaining flour — the dough should be sticky, but pliable enough to shape into a large log. Wrap the log in plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours.

To make the gnocchi:

Spread some flour on a large work surface and cut the dough log into four equal pieces.Take one piece and cut it in half.

Roll the piece of dough into a snake about 1/2 inch thick, then cut it into 1 inch pieces..

Dust the gnocchi with a little flour and push the tines of a fork into one side of the dumpling. Place the gnocchi on a waxed paper tray dusted with flour and cover with a dry kitchen towel.

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To cook the gnocchi

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add enough salt to it so that the water tastes salty. Place a pasta bowl close to the stove

Add the gnocchi to the boiling water and cook until they rise to the top of the boiling water. You may have to do this in batches, so as not to crowd the pan.

Remove the gnocchi with a spider allowing the water to drain and place the gnocchi in the bowl. Continue until all the gnocchi are cooked.

To make the sauce

Heat the butter and sage together in a small skillet. Pour the melted butter over the cooked gnocchi, add the cheese and mix well. Garnish with black pepper and serve immediately.

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Butternut Squash Turnovers

Makes 4 pastries

Dough

1 sheet of cold frozen phyllo dough, defrosted in the refrigerator overnight

Filling

  • 1 cup butternut squash gratin, divided
  • 2 tablespoons red onion, diced
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped sage
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 egg, beaten

Directions

In a mixing bowl, combine the butternut squash, onion, garlic, sage, parsley and Parmesan cheese.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Roll the pastry into a 12 inch square on a floured board. Cut the pastry sheet into four equal squares.

Spoon 1/4 cup of the squash mixture into the center of each square and brush the edges with beaten egg. Fold diagonally in half and press the edges with a fork to seal.

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With a wide spatula, place the turnovers on a parchment covered baking pan. Brush the turnovers with beaten egg.


Place the baking pan in the oven and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until the turnovers are puffy and golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

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Quick Beef Pot Pie

Ingredients

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Combine all the ingredients for the filling in a mixing bowl.

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Fit one pastry into a 9 inch pie plate. Pour the filling into the pie pastry. Cover with the second pastry and flute the edges. Make several slits in the top crust.

Place the pie on a rimmed baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake for about 45 minutes until the crust is brown and the filling is bubbly.


 

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Here in the south, October is still summer but the markets like to think it is fall. So lots of squash, greens, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, green beans, potatoes, apples and grapes are available. I have posted below several recipes that take advantage of the fall harvest.

One of the Farmers' Markets Nearby

Nearby Farmers’ Market

If you have freezer space, this is also a good time to freeze some of fall’s abundance to use in the winter. Only use fruits and veggies in excellent condition that have been thoroughly cleaned. Most vegetables you plan to freeze should be blanched for two to five minutes. Blanching — the process of heating vegetables with boiling water or steam for a set amount of time, then immediately plunging them into cold or iced water — stops enzyme activity that causes vegetables to lose nutrients and change texture. The cooled veggies can then be packed into plastic freezer bags, jars or other freezer-safe storage containers.

Fruits or blanched vegetables can also be patted dry with clean kitchen towels, frozen in a single layer on cookie sheets and then put into containers. Using cookie sheets for freezing ensures that the fruits and vegetables won’t all stick together, so that you can remove a portion at a time from the container. Using this method is best for freezing berries. Berries should not be blanched, just washed and dried before freezing. Chopped onion and chopped bell peppers for cooking can also be frozen without blanching.

Here is a handy chart on how to blanch vegetables for freezing.

Mediterranean Tomato Salad

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Serve this salad with grilled steak.

Ingredients

  • 2-3 large ripe tomatoes, sliced thin
  • One large red onion slice, cut ¼ inch thick and quartered
  • ½ cup oil cured olives, pitted and halved
  • ¼ cup crumbled feta cheese

Dressing

  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Whisk together the oil, vinegar, oregano and black pepper.

Arrange the tomatoes on a serving plate and distribute the onion, olives and cheese over the tomatoes. Drizzle with the dressing.

Let the salad sit at room temperature for an hour before serving.

Fall Vegetable Minestrone

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Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 whole celery stalks with leaves, diced
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup diced carrot
  • 1 cup green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano or basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/3 cup whole-wheat orzo pasta
  • Two 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • One 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the diced celery, onion, carrot, garlic, oregano and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

Add broth and water and bring to a boil. Add orzo and green beans. Cook, uncovered, until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, chickpeas and paprika.  

Cook over medium heat until steaming-hot, 3 to 5 minutes.Taste and add salt to your liking.

Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with cheese,

Lemon Leek Spaghetti

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This recipe is a great side dish for grilled or baked fish.

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 leek, trimmed, cut in half lengthwise, and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
  • Salt & black pepper
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Cook pasta, al dente, according to package directions. Drain.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic, leek, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and black pepper; sauté 4 minutes.

Add broth and juice; cook 2 minutes or until the liquid is reduced by half. Remove the skillet from the  heat; stir in remaining 1 tablespoon butter.

Add the pasta and capers to the leek mixture; toss well to combine and sprinkle with parsley and cheese.

Butternut Squash Gratin

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Serve this dish with ribs or pork chops.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and diced
  • 1 clove garlic, very finely chopped
  • 3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 large leek, cleaned and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 small butternut squash (about 1 pound), peeled, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat a 1 1/2-quart gratin dish or other shallow baking dish with 1 teaspoon of the oil.

Place the garlic and sliced leeks in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Season with salt and pepper.

Arrange the squash and apple cubes on top of the leeks. Season with salt and pepper. With a rubber spatula toss the mixture until evenly combined.

Cover the tightly with foil and bake until the squash is very tender, about 1 hour.

Combine the breadcrumbs with the remaining oil, the lemon zest and parsley. Sprinkle over the squash and bake, uncovered, until the crumbs is golden, 15 minutes longer.


 

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How to get back on track:

Have Breakfast

Not only does it reset your body by getting your metabolism going, but it also helps you set the tone mentally for a regular eating day.

Hydrate

Water helps you feel full, so you won’t be as tempted to carry your overeating into the next day.

Squeeze in Some Exercise

It will make you  feel so much better.

Have a Filling Salad for Lunch

The water in the veggies will help hydrate you and keep you feeling full until dinner.

Cook Dinner at Home

Go for clean foods, like a piece of broiled fish with roasted veggies and a whole grain like quinoa or barley. They’ll give you the nutrients you need and you won’t be hungry.Choose lean cuts of meat and avoid oversized portions. A serving of protein should be no more than 3 ounces (85 grams) — or about the size of a deck of cards — and should take up no more than one-fourth of your plate. Vegetables and fruits should cover half your plate. Whole grains make up the rest. Try a few meatless meals each week for added health benefits.

A few really tasty recipes follow to get you started.

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Roasted Vegetable Crepes

Crepes:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 2/3 cup reduced-fat milk
  • 2/3 cup cold water
  • 3 eggs
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Filling:

  • 2 medium zucchini, cut into bite-size pieces (about 2 cups)
  • 1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into bite-size pieces (about 1 cup)
  • 1 medium sweet onion, coarsely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Coarsely ground black pepper
  • 5 ounces softened reduced fat cream cheese

Directions

To prepare the crepes:

Place flour in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in milk and water until smooth. Whisk

in eggs, 3 tablespoons melted butter and salt. Let stand 10 minutes. (This allows the flour to absorb the liquid.)

Heat an 8 or 9 inch crepe pan over medium-high heat until hot. Lightly brush the pan with some of the remaining melted butter.

Pour 1/4 cup batter into the center of the pan. Quickly tilt in all directions. (Batter should lightly cover the bottom of the pan.) Cook 30 seconds. Lift edge with a spatula to check doneness. Shake and jerk the pan by its handle to loosen the crepe. Turn crepe over and  cook 15 to 20 seconds. Second side will be spotty brown.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining batter and melted butter. Makes 10 crepes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

To prepare the filling:

Makes about 3 cups.

Place zucchini, bell pepper, onion and tomatoes in a large baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil. Add salt, thyme and pepper. Roast 30 minutes or until tender.

Spread 2 tablespoons of cream cheese on half of each crepe. Top with about 1/3 cup roasted vegetables. Fold in half, then in half again. Serve with a green salad.

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Winter Vegetable Stew 

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 large red onion, cut crosswise into 1/3 inch thick rounds
  • 3 medium carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 pound red skinned or yellow gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 acorn squash (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
  • 3 parsnips–peeled and quartered lengthwise
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon marjoram
  • Flat leaf parsley for garnish

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

In a large nonreactive skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over moderately high heat. Add the onion and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned all over, about 10 minutes; transfer to a casserole dish.

Add another tablespoon of oil to the skillet. Add potatoes and butternut squash, and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned all over, about 10 minutes; transfer to the roasting pan. Repeat the cooking process using another tablespoon of oil and the acorn squash and parsnips.

Add the broth to the skillet and bring to a simmer over high heat, scraping up any browned bits. Pour the broth over the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper and add the marjoram. Cover and cook the vegetables in the oven for about 45 minutes, or until just tender when pierced. Increase the oven temperature to 450°F and cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes longer. Ladle into serving bowls and garnish with parsley. Serve with a slice of crusty country bread.

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Tomato, Zucchini and Eggplant Gratin

Ingredients

  • 1/2 medium eggplant, sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 medium zucchini or yellow squash, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • Kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced or mashed
  • One 14-ounce loaf Italian bread, crusts removed and sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup torn basil leaves
  • 3 medium tomatoes, sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400° F.

In a colander, toss the eggplant and zucchini with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and let stand for 20 minutes. Drain well and gently squeeze out any excess liquid.

In a small bowl, stir the olive oil with the garlic. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with 1 1/2 teaspoons of the garlic-infused oil.

Tear the bread into 2-inch pieces and line the bottom of the baking dish with the bread, fitting the pieces tightly together. Drizzle the bread with 2 tablespoons of the garlic oil and sprinkle the bread with half of the basil leaves.

In a medium bowl, toss the eggplant and zucchini with 2 tablespoons of the garlic oil and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the tomato slices with salt and pepper. Arrange the eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes over the bread, overlapping them as necessary. Sprinkle with the thyme leaves and Parmesan cheese and drizzle with the remaining garlic oil.

Bake the gratin for about 40 minutes, until the vegetables begin to brown and the bottom of the bread is golden brown. Remove the vegetable gratin from the oven and let stand until cooled slightly, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining basil, cut into serving pieces.

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Italian Style Stuffed Peppers

4 servings

Directions

  • 4 medium bell peppers
  • 1/2 pound extra-lean ground beef or turkey
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup drained, canned whole Italian tomatoes
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 cup soft bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Vegetable cooking spray
  • 1 cup homemade or store-bought tomato sauce

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Slice off the stem end of peppers and remove and discard seeds and membranes. Submerge the peppers in a pan of boiling water and cook for 5 minutes; drain.

Brown ground beef and onion in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Drain on paper towels.

Return meat mixture to the skillet. Add tomatoes, breaking them into pieces with a spoon, and cook until the liquid evaporates. Remove meat mixture from heat; stir in wild rice, Worcestershire sauce and Italian seasoning.

Spoon 1/2-cup portions of the mixture into the peppers; sprinkle evenly with breadcrumbs and cheese.

Place peppers in a baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Spoon tomato sauce over peppers and return to oven until heated.

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Broccoli Swiss Quiche

6 servings

Easy Whole Wheat Pastry Crust

  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons milk

Quiche Filling

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup broccoli, cooked and chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups Swiss cheese, shredded
  • 8 ounces reduced fat milk
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 medium tomato, sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Directions for making the crust:

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Into 8 or 9 inch Quiche pan or pie plate, stir together flour, sugar and salt. Combine the oil and milk in a measuring cup and pour over the flour mixture.

Mix with fork till all the flour is dampened.

Press dough evenly against the bottom and sides of the pie plate. Crimp edges.

Line the unpricked pastry shell with a double thickness of foil. Bake in the oven for 8 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 4 to 5 minutes more or until the pastry is set and dry.

Remove the pie plate from the oven and set aside while you prepare the filling.

Reduce oven temperature to 350°F.

Directions for the Quiche Filling:

In a mixing bowl whip eggs with a wire whisk and stir in the broccoli, shredded Swiss cheese, milk, garlic, onion, salt and pepper; stir until blended.

Assembling the Quiche:

Pour into baked pastry crust. Place the tomato slices on top of Quiche mixture; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until Quiche tests done in center. Protect pastry crust with foil at the end of the cooking time to prevent over browning.

Cool on wire rack for 5 to 10 minutes before cutting.

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A potluck dinner is a gathering of people where each person in the group contributes a dish of prepared food to be shared among everyone in the group. Presentation is key, so think about how you’re going to serve it. Don’t cook anything that spoils when made in advance or where cooking times are vital.

The main thing to consider about a potluck dish is that the food is:

  • Easy to transport.
  • Easy to make.
  • Ok to eat warm or at room temperature, unless there are hot plates or refrigeration available.
  • Group-friendly; no super spicy dishes or  ingredients that have a high allergy risk.
  • Good even if not fresh. For example, a dressed Caesar salad will end up soggy and limp after a half hour.

I belong to a community group and we meet every month for a potluck dinner. Pasta dishes are popular with our group and here are some of the favorites.

potluck1

Pasta Roll-Ups

16 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 lbs ground  turkey or beef
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • Two 28-oz can whole tomatoes in juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 16-20 dried lasagna noodles
  • Two 10-oz box frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • Two 15-oz container ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook another minute.

Turn heat to medium-high and add ground meat, breaking it up with a spatula until the meat shows no sign of pink. Stir in the Italian seasoning, then add tomatoes and salt.

Reduce heat to medium-low, stir, cover and let simmer for 20 minutes, occasionally stirring and breaking up tomatoes with a wooden spoon.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook pasta according to package directions, drain, rinse and allow to cool in a colander.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Squeeze all remaining moisture from thawed spinach and place in large bowl. Add ricotta cheese, eggs and a 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese to the bowl. Stir until combined

Spread 2 cups of tomato sauce in the bottom of a large baking dish. Lay a cooked lasagna noodle flat in front of you. Spread a tablespoon of ricotta mixture across the noodle and roll it up. Place the rolled pasta seam side down in the baking dish. Repeat with remaining noodles. Spread remaining tomato sauce over roll-ups, then top with remaining mozzarella cheese.

Bake, covered with foil, for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 10 minutes.

Cover with heavy-duty foil and transport in an insulated carrier.

potluck2

Orzo Salad

16 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups orzo pasta
  • 1 lb feta cheese, coarsely crumbled
  • 2 cups chopped Roma tomatoes
  • 1 cup chopped pitted Kalamata olives
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh oregano
  • Salt and ground black pepper

Directions

In a jar with a screw-top lid, place olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and oregano. Shake vigorously to combine.

Cook orzo according to package directions; drain. Transfer pasta to a large bowl. Pour dressing over pasta and mix well. Cover; chill in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours.

Add feta, tomatoes, olives, basil, and parsley to the chilled pasta; stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and ground black pepper. Cover; chill in the refrigerator for 2 to 24 hours.

potluck3

Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Italian Sausage

12 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 2 pound lean Italian sausage, a combination of hot and sweet according to your taste, cut into bite-size pieces
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 pounds orecchiette
  • 2 bunches broccoli rabe
  • 1 ½ cups pasta water
  • 1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Directions

Wash broccoli rabe in several changes of cold water. Cut off the bottom tips on the stalks and cut each stalk into one inch lengths.

Heat oil and stir in garlic in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the sausage and saute until meat is brown.

Boil a large pot of water, add salt and pasta. Add the broccoli rabe during the last two minutes of the pasta cooking time. Reserve 1 1/2 cups of pasta cooking water.

Add the pasta water  to the cooked sausage and raise heat and cook until the sauce is hot.

Drain orecchiette and broccoli rabe and add to the sausage sauce in the skillet.

Using a wooden spoon, toss together for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and pour into a large serving bowl. Sprinkle with Pecorino Romano cheese.

Cover with heavy-duty foil and transport in an insulated carrier.

potluck4

Tortellini and Vegetable Bake

12 servings

Ingredients

  • Two 9-ounce packages refrigerated tortellini
  • 1 medium carrot, thinly sliced
  • 1 ½ cups sugar snap peas, halved crosswise or green beans
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1/3 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh oregano or 1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon minced garlic
  • ½ teaspoon each salt and  pepper
  • 1 cup milk
  • One 8 ounce package cream cheese or light cream cheese (Neufchatel), cubed and softened
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
  • 1 small red or green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Cook tortellini in boiling salted water according to package directions, adding the carrot during the last 5 minutes of cooking and the sugar snap peas or green beans during the last 1 minute of cooking; drain.

Heat butter in a 12-inch skillet. Add chicken, garlic and mushrooms, and cook about 5 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink. Remove from the skillet.

Whisk together chicken broth, oregano, flour, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl. Add to the skillet  with the milk. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly; add cream cheese.

Cook and stir until cream cheese is smooth. Remove from the heat. Stir in lemon juice. Add pasta mixture, chicken mixture, tomatoes and sweet pepper. Toss to coat.

Turn into an ungreased 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking dish or shallow 3-quart casserole.

Bake, covered, in a 350 degrees F oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until heated through. Stir mixture and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Cover with heavy-duty foil and transport in an insulated carrier.

potluck5

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

12 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds rigatoni pasta
  • 3 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
  • 7 cups milk, divided
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 pound Italian Fontina cheese, shredded (about 4 cups)
  • 2 large sweet onions, diced
  • 6 ounces sourdough bread
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted plus 1 tablespoon
  • Fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Lightly butter a large baking pan; set aside.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain; transfer to a large bowl.

In a large saucepan combine the squash and 6 cups of the milk over medium-high heat. Bring to boiling; reduce heat to medium and simmer until the squash is tender when pierced with a fork, 18 to 20 minutes.

Stir together remaining 1 cup milk and flour; stir into squash mixture. Bring to boiling; cook until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in 2 cups of the Fontina cheese until melted; keep warm.

In a very large skillet or Dutch Oven heat the 1 tablespoon of butter. Add onions to the skillet; cover and cook over low heat 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and increase heat to high. Cook 4 to 6 minutes more, stirring, until onions are golden. Add to the pasta in the bowl along with the squash-cheese mixture. Toss well to combine, then transfer to the prepared baking dish.

Place bread in a food processor and pulse with two or three on/off turns to form large coarse crumbs. Transfer to a small bowl; mix with the 3 tablespoons of melted butter. Sprinkle remaining cheese and the bread crumbs over the pasta mixture.

Bake until the top is browned, about 14 to 15 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley. Cover with heavy-duty foil and transport in an insulated carrier.

potluckcartoon



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