Roasted Delicata Squash Salad with Apple Butter Vinaigrette

Melissa's Squash

Roasted Delicata Arugula and Couscous Salad 2002 Edit Roasted Delicata Squash Salad with Apple Butter Vinaigrette

Thanksgiving is almost here and it’s all about the pumpkin… pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin bars…. and of course, who could forget “pumpkin juice”?  But there is far more to winter squash than just pumpkin – and I am not just talking about table decorations! Yup, there is a whole world of delicious, nutritious winter squashes … and lots of delicious ways to use them. So, when Melissa’s Produce sent these beautiful squashes I knew exactly what I wanted to make first –  this Roasted Delicata Squash Salad with Apple Butter Vinaigrette!

Melissas Squash Roasted Delicata Squash Salad with Apple Butter Vinaigrette

I know, I get it … pumpkin is so… well, easy. You grab a can, can opener and viola, you’ve got ready to use pumpkin! But as my mom used to say “if it’s worth having it’s worth working for”. But believe it or not, many of these winter squashes are much easier to prepare than you might think! Like Delicata squash… just wash, slice and bake or roast – takes no more time than slice and bake cookies. Honestly.   Which makes  Roasted Delicata Squash almost as easy to make  as opening a can of pumpkin! It’s delicious on it’s own a a side dish but since I’m a fan of mixing squash with other things,   I love it in this  Roasted Delicata Squash Salad with Apple Butter Vinaigrette. I’ve been “noshing” on this for lunch the last few days – but  it would be delicious served alongside a simple roasted chicken or pork tenderloin.. and definitely alongside that Thanksgiving Turkey!

Roasted Delicata Arugula and Couscous Salad 2013 Edit Roasted Delicata Squash Salad with Apple Butter Vinaigrette

And speaking of Thanksgiving ….check out these  new, beautiful baskets from Melissa’s Produce! I am a huge fan of these baskets – they make a terrific hostess gift. Going somewhere else for Thanksgiving? Well,  I can pretty much  guarantee that any host/hostess would be thrilled with one of these baskets… and with all the holidays coming up, these baskets are the ideal gift for anyone on your list who doesn’t need or want more “stuff”!! Screen Shot 2013 11 12 at 9.44.48 AM 300x294 Roasted Delicata Squash Salad with Apple Butter Vinaigrette  If you are looking for other ways to use Delicata squash, here  are some other great recipes from some of my favorite bloggers!

Roasted Squash Blossom Casserole from My Man’s Belly

Autumn Apple, Quinoa and Butternut Squash Salad from She’s Cookin

Stuffed Delicata Squash from Make Mine Lemon

Roasted Delicata Squash Salad with Apple Butter Vinaigrette
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The couscous I used has orzo, baby garbanzo beans and quinoa in it - if you don't have access to a Trader Joes, you can easily use plain Israeli couscous for this salad. For the pecans, I used the sweet and spicy pecans from Trader Joe's - but toasted pecans or candied pecans would be delicious!
Serves: 4 - 6 servings
  • Vinaigrette:
  • 2 Tbsp. apple butter
  • 2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
  • ¼ tsp. curry powder
  • 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • Salad:
  • 2 medium delicata squash
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 cups arugula
  • ½ cup Trader Joe's Harvest Blend couscous OR Israeli couscous, cooked and drained.
  • ½ dried cherries
  • ½ cup spicy or candied pecans
  1. Directions for the Vinaigrette: Combine the apple butter, vinegar and curry powder and whisk to combine. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil and whisk until combined. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  2. Pre heat the oven to 450 degrees. Spray a sheet pan with cooking spray. Cut the squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Flip the squash over (cut side down) and slice into ½ inch thick slices. Place slices on the sheet pan and brush with olive oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
  3. Roast squash in the oven for 8 - 10 minutes. Using a spatula, turn squash slices over and roast for another 7 - 8 minutes or until the squash is browned and tender. Remove pan from the oven and cool.
  4. In a large salad bowl, combine the couscous and the arugula. Pour the vinaigrette over and toss. Divide salad among 4 plates and garnish with the squash, cherries and pecans.


Pasta with Basil Yogurt Sauce

Pasta with Basil Yogurt Sauce

Pasta with Basil Yogurt Sauce Pasta with Basil Yogurt Sauce

















Drink your milk”….. Is that phrase a familiar one from your childhood? It definitely is from mine. In my house, dessert wasn’t served until my milk glass was empty… which generally wasn’t a problem since I love milk and cheese and yogurt. Speaking of yogurt, does anyone remember those brightly colored Knudsen containers? Yup, I am a dairy lover from way back!  Which is a good thing since dairy products are a terrific nutritional value with nine essential nutrients including  calcium, potassium, phosphorus, protein, riboflavin, niacin  and Vitamins A,D and B12.  And when they are part of dishes like this Pasta with Basil Yogurt Sauce, even better!!! Yes, a yogurt pasta sauce that may just have you giving up your favorite Fettucine Alfredo… but more on that in a bit.

Ok, so dairy products are a great nutritional bargain. But there is more to dairy than that! In addition to being nutritional bargains, studies have suggested that  three servings of dairy as part of a balanced diet may help you maintain a healthy weight.

Hmm… foods that I not only love but that are good for me and help me manage my weight?? Bring it on!!!

Pasta with Basil Yogurt Sauce BC1 Pasta with Basil Yogurt Sauce

But what if you are lactose intolerant? Well, as I mentioned in this post, even if you are lactose intolerant you can still incorporate dairy into your diet. Lactose intolerance doesn’t mean dairy avoidance. In fact, health experts recommend that those with lactose intolerance try to keep low fat and fat free dairy in their diets because of the powerful nutritional benefits of dairy. Yogurt and hard, aged cheeses are naturally contain a small amount of lactose and are also great choices for getting the 3 recommended servings of dairy every day.  Not sure what a serving size is? Here are some handy equivalents to keep in mind.

1 cup milk (skim, 1%, 2% or whole) = 1 serving

1 cup yogurt (non fat, low fat or whole) = 1 serving

1 ½ oz. of hard and semi soft cheeses = 1 serving

Dishes like this Pasta with Basil Yogurt Sauce are a  delicious and nutritious way to add  more dairy to your diet – but be warned, you may never make Fettuccine Alfredo again.

Looking for more suggestions on how to add more dairy to your diet? Check out the National Dairy Council website for some great tips on all things dairy and helpful tips for managing lactose intolerance.

Pasta with Basil Yogurt Sauce
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  • 1 lb. rigatoni or medium shell pasta
  • 1 cup 2% greek yogurt
  • 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup (packed) fresh basil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ¼ tsp. white pepper
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes (optional)
  • ¼ cup toasted pine nuts (optional)
  1. In the bowl of a food processor combine the yogurt, olive oil, basil, garlic, parmesan cheese, pepper and salt. Process until all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed. Taste and adjust seasonings. Set aside.
  2. Measure ½ of the sauce into a large bowl and set aside. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Season water with salt. Add the pasta and cook until al dente - about 12 minutes. Drain. Add the pasta GRADUALLY to the yogurt sauce. If you add it too quickly the sauce will break.
  3. Garnish with the chopped tomatoes and pine nuts if desired.




Orzo Risotto with Leeks and Mushrooms

#chicken, #mushrooms

Orzo Risotto with Leeks and Mushrooms BC1 Orzo Risotto with Leeks and Mushrooms“So, what’s for dinner?”

This might just be the most frequently asked question in our house, and some days it’s easy to answer. Others? Not so much – especially when the world is running at a breakneck pace. Since that’s been happening  a lot  lately I was very excited when a package of these pre sliced leeks from Melissa’s Produce arrived on my doorstep – because not only did I have a great ingredient to use for dinner but I also knew EXACTLY what I was going to make to feed the starving hordes that night, Orzo Risotto with Leeks and Mushrooms!  How I came to that particular decision is a mystery .  But in this case all I can say is that however the idea came about I am very happy that it did, because in the immortal words of my husband “I could eat this a lot, like every week”.

High praise indeed!

So, about these pre sliced leeks from Melissa’s Produce. Brilliant. Simply brilliant. If you’ve always shied away from leeks because (a) they are a pain to slice and clean and dry or (b) wondered what in the heck you’d ever do with them… well, it’s now time to embrace them since  Melissa’s has done all the hard work for you. No cleaning, no chopping no drying, just open the package and cook them! Once you have, you will be  hooked. I think of leeks as the refined member of the onion family – they are mellow, sweet and almost herbal in nature – and were the perfect addition to this Orzo Risotto with Leeks and Mushrooms.

Screen Shot 2013 03 01 at 10.05.47 AM Orzo Risotto with Leeks and Mushrooms

Since I’ve been on a “one dish dinner” roll lately, I know you’ll be surprised to learn that I made this  Orzo Risotto with Leeks and Mushrooms as a “one dish dinner”, but you could easily omit the chicken and serve it as a side dish – it would go beautifully with just about any white fish (halibut, tilapia, sea bass) or roasted poultry… or as a vegetarian main with some tender white beans.

Orzo Risotto with Leeks and MushroomsBC2 Orzo Risotto with Leeks and Mushrooms

So, the next time the question of “what’s for dinner?” come up, Orzo Risotto with Leeks and Mushrooms may just be the perfect answer!

Orzo Risotto with Leeks and Mushrooms
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Serves: 4 servings
  • 1 cup orzo
  • 1½ cups chicken stock
  • ¼ cup dry sherry
  • 1 package Melissa's Leeks
  • 1 6 oz. package sliced mushrooms
  • ¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh thyme
  • ¼ tsp. white pepper
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 4 tsp. canola oil
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  1. If making this dish with chicken:
  2. Heat a large skillet or saute pan (one that has a lid!) over medium high heat. Add 3 tsp. of the canola oil and heat until oil shimmers but isn't smoking. Add chicken thighs and cook until brown and carmelized. Turn and continue cooking until chicken is cooked through - about 10 minutes depending upon thickness of the chicken thighs. Remove thighs and set aside.
  3. To make the orzo, heat 1 tsp. canola oil in the same skillet or saute pan over medium high heat. Add the mushrooms, don't stir! When the mushrooms are nicely browned, remove from pan and set aside. Add the orzo and the leeks and cook for 2 minutes until leeks are limp and orzo is lightly toasted. Add the mushrooms back to the pan and add the sherry. Cook over medium heat until the sherry has almost evaporated. Add the stock, nutmeg,fresh thyme and pepper. Bring mixture to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook for 10 - 12 minutes and then stir the orzo. Continue to cook until all the liquid is absorbed and the orzo is tender. Add the parmesan cheese and stir. If using the chicken thighs, place the thighs on top of the orzo, cover and heat for 1 or 2 minutes. Garnish with additional sauteed leeks and fresh thyme sprigs if desired.
  4. If making a vegetarian version, substitute a light vegetable stock for the chicken stock. Add the beans just before the orzo is done and stir to heat the beans.


Mexican Pasta Salad


One of the things I love most about writing this food blog is that I get to try foods I’ve never had before. So when Hodgson Mill sent me boxes of their new Whole Wheat pasta to experiment with for their Summer Pastabilities contest, I couldn’t wait to start playing with it!

I have to admit that up to this point, I haven’t been a huge fan of  whole grain pastas and I’ve tried quite a few – they were either tough or doughy or just downright unappealing so I was a little skeptical. But this Mexican Pasta Salad  is  different –  tender and flavorful, with just a hint of nuttiness – in short,  it’s delicious!!

After narrowing down my ideas I decided to try my hand at a pasta salad – another dish that isn’t always high on my “favorites” list despite the fact that I  love pasta. My objection? For the most part I’ve found them to be bland and well.. boring, which is a shame, since pasta salads are perfect for summer eating and are a great choice for  picnics, barbeques and potlucks.

Since I love the flavors of chile, lime and tomatoes I thought that would be a great base to start from – and if my “taste testers” are to be believed, I was right. To add a bit more flavor, I roasted corn, tomatoes and peppers  and then added a little avocado and sliced green onion, finishing it all off with a  zesty lime and chile dressing . Now this is a mexican pasta salad!!!

If you like this pasta salad and have a few minutes, I’d truly appreciate it if you’d pop on over to Pinterest and “like” my pasta salad!

Mexican Pasta Salad
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Serves: 8 - 10 servings
  • 1 – 10 oz. box Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Pasta – bowtie or medium shells
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 3 quarts water
  • 2 ears of fresh corn, kernels cut off the cob
  • 6 roma tomatoes, cored and cut into ½ inch dice
  • 1 large orange bell pepper, seeded and cut into ½ inch dice
  • 1 large avocado, peeled, seeded and cut into ½ inch dice
  • 3 scallions, sliced ¼ inch thick
  • ¼ cup minced cilantro
  • 3 Tbsp. corn oil
  • Corn Strip garnish (optional_)
  • 2 small corn torillas, cut into ⅛ inch strips (optional)
  • 1 cup canola oil (optional)
  • Dressing:
  • Juice of two limes
  • 3 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. agave nectar or honey
  • ½ - 1 jalepeno seeded and minced
  • ¼ tsp. chile powder
  • large pinch of salt
  • ¾ cup corn oil
  1. Pre heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Combine the chicken stock and water in a large saucepan or stockpot and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and stir until the water is boiling vigorously. Cook for 7 to 9 minutes until desired tenderness. Drain pasta and set aside.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, combine the corn, tomatoes and bell pepper on a sheet pan sprayed with cooking spray. Drizzle with the 3 Tbsp. corn oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the vegetables for 15 – 20 minutes until vegetables are nicely browned. Remove pan from the oven and set aside.
  4. To make the dressing, combine the lime juice, white wine vinegar, jalepeno, agave nectar, chile powder and salt in a small bowl. Whisk to combine. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the corn oil. Set dressing aside.
  5. Corn strip garnish (optional): Heat the canola oil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. When oil just begins to simmer, drop one of the tortilla strips in the oil. Cook for 2 minutes until nicely browned. If browning too quickly, reduce heat. Add the tortilla strips in small batches, being careful not to crowd the pan. Using a slotted spoon, remove the strips from the oil and drain on several layers of paper towels. Dust with chile powder and salt while still warm. Set aside.
  6. To make the salad, place the pasta in a large bowl. Add the roasted vegetables and drizzle the dressing on. Toss to thoroughly mix and taste, adding more dressing if desired.
  7. Gently mix in the avocado, scallions and cilantro. Garnish with the tortilla strips if using.


Butcher Shop Bolognese


No, I didn’t clean out the butcher shop and come up with this dish.

But seriously – isn’t that the best  name? That’s what I thought when I came  across this recipe in Barbara Lynch’s book, Stir.

So, of course I had to make it.  As I read through the ingredients I thought it might be a bit of a tough sell around  here.


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