Tag Archives: squash

Creamy Squash and Pepper Side-Dish (serves 6)

I wanted to revisit this great recipe. Sometimes when I make a side-dish to go along with my main meal, the accompaniment can get lost in the shadows.

I wanted to give this little gem it’s very own spotlight, and get you excited about using squash to go with some of your hearty, robust winter dinners. Besides adding a lovely flash of color to your plate, it is also so good for you, and delicious beyond  belief!

Consider cooking this the next time you have an unwieldly squash sitting in your kitchen, and you don’t want to make soup!

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You will need: 1 winter squash, peeled , scooped & diced, 2 tbs oil, 1 tbs unsalted butter, 1 small yellow onion, small dice, 2 long skinny red peppers (Anaheim), OR, 1 green pepper, diced, 1/2 tsp of curry powder, (if your curry is very mild, use 1 tsp), 1 sprig thyme, 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream, 1/2 tsp sea-salt, (I use Maldon Salt), several grinds cracked black pepper.

blanch squash

1 –  Put a pot of water on and when it boils, add the diced squash and cook covered for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

saute peppers & onions

2 – Put saute pan on medium heat and add the oil and butter. When it has warmed, add the onions and peppers and cook for 12 or so minutes, until vegetables are soft.

3 – Add the squash and thyme sprig, and continue to cook for another 3 minutes. Add the curry powder, salt and pepper and stir into vegetables. Add cream and turn heat down to low. Keep warm until ready to serve (you may want to thin it out more, and you can do so by adding a tbs of cream or broth  until you are satisfied with the consistency).

Bacon Wrapped Chicken with Winter Squash (serves 6)

I’ll admit to being more interested in so many other things last night than in making dinner. That being said, I absolutely always make an evening meal.

I know there are more food options nowadays, but I think making dinner should be a cheerful obligation, not a choice. Of course there are nights I cannot cook because of one thing or another, but since I was the one who decided to have a family, I really want to BE a family, and make being together as much as possible the most important thing.

Bacon Wrapped Chicken with Winter Squash

There will be plenty of nights in the future when I can read a book or watch a movie. I don’t want to look back on this time in my life and have regrets about something I had control over; like making a great dinner and all enjoying it together. So much goes along with this simple act. Do I have to state the obvious? 

So, being lazy last night just required that I make a lazy dinner! The preparations necessary took 10 minutes of my precious time. The squash I used was grown locally, as were the herbs (my garden) and the bacon.

As it turned out, it didn’t take much time or talent to make an amazing dinner!

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You will need: 6 chicken thigh cutlets, 3 chicken breast fillets, 1/2 to 3/4 lbs bacon, 1 winter squash, peeled, quartered & sliced, 5 sprigs thyme, 5 sprigs tarragon, 1/4 cup heavy cream, 1 cup chicken broth, sea-salt & freshly cracked black pepper for seasoning.

Preheat oven 425*

1 – Layer the squash in the bottom of a big saute or roasting pan. Scatter the herbs over the squash and sprinkle cream on top of everything. Season with several grinds of pepper.

squash & herbs in bottom of pan

2 –  Cut any excess fat from meat and wrap each piece in a strip of bacon. Add the broth and season with more black pepper.

ready for oven

3 – Place in preheated oven for 40 minutes, after which time, the bacon will cook and become crispy on top.

out of oven

4 – Take out of oven and cover pan for 10 minutes before serving. Taste broth for further seasoning.

you can also serve with rice

To serve; lay a portion of squash in the bottom of shallow bowls and top with whole chicken piece, or, slice the chicken and lay on top. This can be served as is, or, with a green salad, pasta, rice, or crusty bread.

Pesto Fried Rice with Bacon & A Story About Carrots (Serves 6)

It was one of those nights when I stood staring at a bunch of fresh vegetables and didn’t know where to start? I had the funniest looking carrots (in the funny peculiar way, that is) and I was dying to use them. I was 100% sure that they would taste delicious, even if they were not the prettiest-looking things in the world.

They reminded me of a job I took when I was about 11 or 12, harvesting carrots for the headmaster of my school one summer. I lived in the country, and the only work available to earn pocket-money was agrarian. This was rural Ireland in the 1970’s and when you were hired to work in some field or other, weeding beet or picking strawberries, it was serious business.

The farmer did not hire the kid to do them a favor, and to teach them responsibility. No one could afford to give those kinds of lessons. Yes, we were cheap labor, but we did learn how to do an honest days work, and the money we received seemed like a fortune.

The headmaster of our country school was the most elegant man I had known as a child.  He always wore a three-piece suit to school and swished a cane by his side when patrolling the yard during break time. There were many days he would arrive to class sporting a pale pink carnation in the buttonhole of his jacket. I haven’t thought about that in years…

Gnarly carrots - a sign of a natural veggie!

He lived in the same village as our family, sent his 5 boys to the same school, and I saw him at the same mass every Sunday, but somehow, I always felt he lived a life apart from the rest of us. His willingness to stand out in a place and time where going for a country stroll after dinner was considered more than a little eccentric, was admirable to me.  This is hard to explain. People worked very hard just to get by, and the thought of going for a walk after putting in a hard day was never contemplated. People were just too darn tired!

mild little peppers from my sister-in-law's garden

I learned more from him in two years than I had in all the previous years combined of my primary education. His unwillingness to tolerate laziness along with the liberal use of his cane probably had something to do with my enthusiasm to learn whatever he dished out!

He owned a couple of fields around his house and must have rented them out to farmers for the most part. One summer however, he asked the class if anyone was willing to work for him harvesting his vegetables. I raised my hand and that weekend found myself standing with a pretty big group of my class mates in a field behind his house.

I was giving a bucket, which I filled with water, and stood out in a drill between rows of planted carrots. My job was to pull the carrots, wash them in my bucket, tie them in bundles, stack them and eventually bring them to a big table when I had to change my bucket of dirty water.

The headmaster would walk the drills, stopping by every child making sure they were doing a good job, and praising work well done.

Pesto Fried Rice with Bacon

As you can imagine, everyone worked very hard, and none more than me. I actually loved pulling the carrots out of the ground, watching the sudden orange of the root appear like a prize from the dirt. These were gnarly carrots indeed! Lots had extra little appendages growing from them, and were twisted and bent like rickety old walking sticks. 

Appearances are certainly misleading, because they were some of the sweetest carrots I have ever tasted. The carrots sitting in front of me this particular evening, so many decades later, reminded me of that day, like it was yesterday.

The old headmaster died some years back now, and I was sorry to hear the news.

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You will need: 1 lb streaky bacon, 3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, 1 sweet onion, cut in half and then into slices, 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced, 3 mild peppers, thinly sliced, 1 yellow squash, diced, 8-12 fresh whole basil leaves, 2 tbs pesto (type pesto in search box in column to the right of my blog for recipe, or use a good quality jarred, or buy from the fresh section of your supermarket), 1/2 cup chicken broth or water, 6 or so cups of cooked basmati rice (2 1/2 cups for stove-top method and 3 cups if using rice-cooker and rice-cooker measure), 6 eggs (optional), sea-salt and freshly ground pepper for seasoning.

1 – Put rice on first thing and cook according to instructions. When cooked, set aside.

2 – In a separate pan from the pan you will use to cook the main part of the dish, fry the bacon until getting crispy. Drain on paper towels and set aside. When cool enough to handle, chop into bite-sized slices.

fry bacon

3 – While bacon is cooking, put big saute pan on low/medium heat and add oil. When it has warmed, add the onions and fry for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the sliced carrots and garlic, and continue to cook for another 5 or so minutes.

Fry onions, then carrots and garlic

4 – Add the yellow squash and mild peppers and continue to cook for another 10 minutes or so, until the squash begins to soften. Add the basil and cook for another 3 minutes.

Add rest of veggies

5 – Add the pesto, bacon, and broth (or water) and stir everything together. Taste and add salt and/or pepper if you feel it needs it. Add the cooked rice and give everything a good stir to incorporate. Add more water or broth if you want a looser mixture.

6 – If using the eggs; fry according to your taste (soft, medium, hard, sunny-side-up??),  and top each dish with one, and a little hot sauce.

I topped mine with a fried egg and a dash of hot sauce (lovely plate by Shawn Ireland)

Serve in warmed bowls alone, or with hot sauce, or, with fried eggs and hot sauce.

Coconut Rice with Chicken Sausage, Squash, and Kale (serves 6)

As I parked my car I noticed that one of my hot pepper plants was leaning severely. It was being pulled over by the weight of a long hot cayenne pepper. It was still green, but, since I couldn’t find anything to prop it up with, I let my daughter pick it. She was delighted to pluck it from the stem. Kids take great pleasure in picking anything from the garden, whether I want them to or not. So many times they have gotten themselves in trouble for pulling flowers, green tomatoes, uprooting carrots etc; they just can’t help themselves. So, to be given permission to snatch something from a plant felt like a sinful treat!

Hot pepper from my garden

I only pull vegetables or herbs from my garden as I need them, and now that I had this pepper on my hands, I felt obligated to use it in dinner that evening. I had all sorts of things that needed using; a bunch of kale from my CSA box (see top right for more info), a squash and zucchini from my friend Lisa’s garden, basil that was growing out of control, and now this pepper!

coconut rice with Chicken Sausage, Squash & Kale for Dinner

My son, who is obsessed with everything that is rice-based, had been asking for an aromatic rice dish with chicken. I did not have chicken, but I did have chicken sausage, and that, along with all of the summer bounty begging to be used, I relented to his constant nagging.

This was a fabulous dinner, full of different shades of green, mixed with the yellow-y rice. It is a great dish if you want to use up lots of vegetables, and it feeds a multitude in no time at all.

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You will Need: 1 lb chicken sausage (I used a seasoned garlic chicken sausage, cut into bite-sized pieces, 3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped, 1 bunch kale (about 8 leaves), center vein cut out and leaves chopped, 1 sweet or yellow onion, cut in half and sliced, 1 zucchini or yellow squash, cut into chunks, 1 hot pepper, sliced (jalapeno, cherry bomb, cayenne pepper), big bunch fresh basil leaves (about 2 cups), 2 tsp turmeric powder, 2 cups raw basmati rice, 1 can coconut milk (2 cups), 6 cups water, 1 vegetable or chicken bouillon cube (OR 3 cups chicken broth & 3 cup water), coarse salt, freshly ground black pepper.

1 – Blanch Kale: Put pot of water on to boil (4 qt) and when it is boiling add kale. Bring back to a boil. When it is boiling, cover and time for 3 minutes. Drain into colander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside.

2 – Put big saute pan on low/medium heat and add oil. When it is hot add the onions and garlic and cook for about 12 or so minutes, stirring occasionally (until the onions are starting to brown).

saute onions and garlic

3 – Add sausage and continue to cook for another 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir until it has been coated with the oils from the pan.

add rice, then kale

4 – Add the turmeric and stir until it is incorporated. Add hot pepper, 1/2 tsp salt, squash, and kale, and mix together before adding all the liquids. Bring liquid to a simmer. Cover and simmer gently until rice has just cooked (about 20 minutes). Do not let liquid boil; a bare simmer is all that is necessary.

stir basil into liquid

5 – Take pan off of heat and stir in the fresh basil leaves. Cover and let everything sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Serve plain

Serve in shallow warmed bowls, or transfer to a big serving dish and let everyone help themselves.

or, add some heat with sriracha sauce and a dollop of sour cream (always my man Dave's condiments of choice! Type Sriracha in my search box to find out more info.)

Five Spice Pork Stir-Fry with Green Beans, Squash and Rice (Serves 4-6)

There are a couple of reasons I prepared this wonderful pork dish last night. I love to cook, and would attempt to make dinner even if one of my arms was hanging off! This may be a slight exaggeration, but, my point is that I try to prepare an evening meal no matter what is going on around me. A more realistic situation is what happened last night. I came home to a messy kitchen as I hadn’t time to clean before I rushed out of the house that afternoon, (also doesn’t help that my dishwasher is broken, and I can’t find anyone who works on this particular model to fix it!).

luscious green beans from my CSA box of veggies by Good Work Farm

I rolled up my sleeves and was just about to launch into the pile of dishes, pots and pans when I calculated by the time I got the kitchen in order, and made dinner, I would most likely find myself in a house of really hungry and therefore, very grumpy people (including myself). Would it be worth the effort it would take, or, should I make the call, and order some mediocre food and make my life easier? I decided on the latter and made the announcement, to which my son, who had chatted to me all the way home about possible dishes, gave me a look that would melt the coldest heart. I of course caved immediately and told my man Dave to clean the kitchen and I would work around him!

Five Spice Pork With Green Beans, Yellow Squash & Rice

It still had to be something fairly quick, and lo and behold, an idea popped into my head. I had pork tenderloin which cooks in minutes if you cut it up and fry it. That was settled, and I started prepping the pork while chuckling about a conversation I had earlier with my friend Kathleen. She is this amazing woman who home-schooled all six of her children, while still managing to cook dinner every night, and, look good while doing it! Don’t you just hate people like that! Here I was complaining about feeding just two children and crying about my dishwasher. She also grew up cooking fairly simple, but good food. When she met me we would talk about what dinners we liked making, and I slowly introduced her to things that I use, and, she was up for trying anything I recommended.

Squash from my friend Lisa's garden - so amazing.

One day I cooked something when she was over that she particularly loved. I told her one of the ingredients was Mirin, which is a sweetened rice wine commonly found in Japanese kitchens. It is a handy item to use in combination with soy sauce to add flavor to a quick stir-fry. The smile on my face while frantically chopping the pork was because only a few hours earlier she had been telling me how she loved reading my blog but was wondering when I would make something with mirin? She had purchased a bottle in anticipation of getting a recipe from me, and it had now sat on a shelf in her kitchen for the past two years! I felt bad about not coming through with some advice on how to use her lovely bottle of sweet syrupy liquid and decided that mirin (along with Chinese five spice powder) would be used by hook or by crook to pull this meal together.

Dinner was on the table in under 35 minutes and was fabulous. The marinade of soy, mirin, five spice powder and garlic transformed the pork into sweet, tender deliciousness. This dish is dedicated to my friend Kathleen who inspired, and guilted me into making a great dinner!

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You Will Need: 1 1/2 lbs Pork tenderloin, sliced and chopped into bite-sized pieces, 4 tbs vegetable or peanut oil, 1 medium/large sweet onion, 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped, 1 yellow squash, thickly sliced and diced, 2 cups green beans (1 dry pint) chopped into 1/2′ pieces, 1/4 cup of soy sauce, 1/4 cup of mirin, 3/4 tsp Chinese five spice powder, 6 cups cooked basmati rice.

* Put the rice on immediately. For stove-top method use 2 1/2 cups raw rice. For Rice Cooker method, use 3 cups of rice-cooker measure. The rice will be cooked when you are ready to toss it into the cooked ingredients.

1 – Prep all vegetables and meat (meat first) as instructed above.

2 – Combine soy sauce, mirin, garlic and five spice powder in a shallow Pyrex dish and add pork. Stir everything to coat, and set aside for 20 minutes.

3 – Put big saute pan or wok on medium/high heat and add 2 tbs vegetable or peanut oil. Wait for 3 minutes to let the pan and oil get hot. Add the onions and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the green beans and continue to cook and stir for another 3 minutes before adding the squash. Continue to cook for another 3 minutes until the vegetables are soft but still toothsome (still have a crunch).

First, stir-fry the vegetables.

4 – Scrape vegetables form the pan into a bowl and set aside.

Set vegetables aside

5 – Add 1 tbs of oil to the pan and turn heat up to high. Using a slotted spoon (so the meat drains from the marinade) add 1/2 of the meat to the pan and stir-fry for about 5 minutes. Remove to a plate or bowl and add 1 tbs of oil to pan and fry the second batch, (save the marinade). When it has cooked, add the rest of the meat and vegetable to the pan.  Stir in the rice and pour the reserved marinade over everything and stir quickly. When everything is hot, turn off heat.

Stir-fry pork in batches

Let everyone help themselves or divide between warm shallow bowls and serve.

Serve in bowls and eat with chopsticks or a big spoon!