Cooking squash (X3!!)

I went on a roll this week, as  much as allowed by my foot pain, to learn how to cook my various squashes I had around. The lineup included: the spaghetti squash which had been on my counter at least five weeks and was making me feel more guilty by the millisecond, my acorn squash from Whole Foods, and a baby butternut.

Now I know what all the fuss is about spaghetti squash! I loved this one. I followed simple directions from Oh She Glows to cut in half, clean out, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake face down (skin up) in the oven. So simple and no peeling at all needed-I appreciated this part. You can find the full details by following the link. I really admire how she gives such good step-by-step (and perfect) directions on her blog. This sqaghetti squash was truly delicious eaten right away after easily “shredding” the inner squash with two forks. We also enjoyed it as an entree with marinara sauce, which was good, but I preferred it alone, just after cooking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then I got really bold a few days later and cooked 2 squashes at the same time–this time following Veganomicon general guidelines. This was the “keep the skin on” method.  I followed the basic squash guidelines-cut off the top and bottom, cut in half (be careful and go slowly-this got a little “hairy”), scoop out the “stuff” with spoon or metal ice cream scoop, then brush lightly with a preferred oil–my preference/ it was not mentioned in the cookbook–and cook face down. My butternut squash and acorn squashes were rather small. I think I made the mistake of thinking I should cut the cooking time down from 45-60 minutes at 400 F to 35 minutes. I thought they were done when I could pierce the skin easily with a fork. However peeling the skin off was another story…

The butternut squash was tough to deal with after it cooled a little. The skin did not peel off easily at all, which is what I had expected. Some parts were super mushy and some were still a little undercooked. It was a small ~1 pounder, so I did not have much to deal with. I pureed it, and because no one in my house likes butternut squash this way, it was all mine with a bit of melted Earth Balance spread mixed in and salt.

The acorn squash did not peel either! Agh! I ended up cutting it into big chunks and then “scoring” and cutting out pieces from each chunk. Honestly, I was not thrilled with its flavor. That is how this dish came along…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quinoa, plus Light Life Italian Sausage sauteed in a pan, and chunks of acorn squash. Salt and pepper and I’m embarassed to admit–a drizzle of melted Earth Balance spread (vegan “butter” spread). A quick dinner to top off an afternoon of cooking. Next time I try an acorn squash I will look into seasonings and sauces to give it a fair try.

I think that concludes the squash part of my autumn, at least on the blog. It was fun to overcome a fear that they are too complicated or won’t taste good. Well, I guess that was mostly true for me. My conclusions: I especially loved the butternut squash from my last blog entry (skinned and cut into pieces) and the awesome spaghetti squash. Let me know if you try any and how they turn out!

My next adventure is to participate on the VegCookbookClub blog next month. The book has not been decided upon, but I’m going to get it and cook along. Gotta push myself and keep on learning. Join in if you want. Reading the past cookbooks they have cooked from is a nice way to see if you want one or even want to get it from the library. Not that I would ever do that…(ha!)

Have a great week… and are you learning anything new in the cooking world?

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A New To-Do List

Still recovering from surgery here. Cultivating patience I did not know I needed to learn! I’m just starting to be able to stand long enough to cook a little. Hence, I’ve taken a week off from the blog–I didn’t mean to, but it just happened. So, wouldn’t you know, I’ve been collecting a bit of a to-do list. (And sorry about the formatting of this post–not sure how to change what keeps happening-hopefully I can figure it out by next week)

1. Cook an acorn squash–I picked this up at Whole Foods. I was shocked when it rang up as nearly $5.00! Hope it’s good…

 

 

 

 

2. Make something with this can of pumpkin. I am debating between muffins and bread. I’d like to try (with whatever I choose) this gluten-free flour from Namaste Foods. It’s allergy-safe for us, which is difficult to find when dabbling in “alternative” grains.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Make this quinoa, which is allergy-safe for my son unlike the type sold at Costco. The challenge is to get him to try it!! I ordered it directly from the company to get the bulk size–four pounds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Experiment with this coconut oil. An employee at a Whole Foods-like store in a nearby city told me that coconut oil is better than canola oil. I think she said canola oil wasn’t good for you because it is so refined, which requires chemicals. I did a bit of reading about it, and those who think canola oil is bad for health think it is due to 1. Refinement with harsh chemicals that can leach into it. 2. Most of it is made with genetically modified seeds (buying organic would prevent this).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are some “sample” views on canola oil–One doesn’t know what to do after reading all this. A somewhat balanced perspective on canola oil here. A more pointed, different view here. I didn’t mean to open a can of worms, but it is something to think about. I can’t say that these are reliable, scientifically accurate sites, but they do illustrate the main arguments I have found. And here is an article on Benefits of Coconut Oil from the Balanced Bites blog.

 

 

Oh and one more thing, when I handed my 12-year old his packed lunch (of peanut butter and jelly) today, he said “why is it always chicken at school?” (he had checked the menu and did not want the lunch of the day) and then “and why chicken on Meatless Monday?” I LOVE it!! Maybe a possible vegetarian in the making? In all truthfulness, I accept their choices, whatever they may be. I will just keep educating!

So, have you used any of the products or foods I have on my list? How did it go?

Butternut Squash…A New Veggie Experience

Butternut Squash: (For those of you, like me, who do not know their squash names)

I was really anxious to cook my first Butternut squash based on all the tempting squash recipes I’ve seen in the blog world lately. I needed to conquer a new veggie anyways; it had been a little while. I’ve always had a soft spot for squash. I ate it as a child (remember packaged blocks of frozen squash in the frozen section?…) and occasionally as an adult from frozen as well.

I followed the general instructions from the blog I told you about last week, Oh She Glows. Because I just happen to be on crutches, I decided to modify my adventure to simple cooking of the squash without the additions that make hers look amazing. My primary goal was to get this thing cut up without losing my balance with a knife in my hand! I ended up peeling the uncooked squash as the recipe suggested and found out my peeler was not up to the task…so I peeled it by hand with a knife. I think I’ll try the cook first, peel later method next time. I was amazed and excited when I cut the squash in half and saw all the solid squash in there and just a small circle of “guts” in the bottom part. Like so many other fruits and veggies (e.g. mangoes, pumpkins) I expected a small return for all the work, but my butternut squash yielded a full 9X13 baking dish’s worth of cubed squash.

 

 

 

 

 

I cut it into 1″ pieces, placed in my Pyrex dish, and combined with 2 tbsp olive oil–way more than the recipe stated, but I messed up and though that was what I had read…sigh…I always seem to have one slip-up per meal…I sprinkled it with salt and pepper and baked covered with aluminum foil pierced for venting at 400 for 45 minutes. I will probably cook about 35-40 minutes next time…it was super soft, as you can see in the picture. At this point, I added my secret “spice”, also known as Trader Joe’s maple sugar, and stirred it in. This sugar has a slight maple flavor and is much less “adulterated” than other forms of sugar. I started to feel guilty about adding sugar to a vegetable dish and therefore stopped…sadly…I’d guess I stirred in about about two tablespoons. Only enough to taste the maple flavor very slightly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preparing this squash was very easy (except for the peeling) and tasted wonnnderfuuulll…I think I can probably add a little more of the maple sugar too, if I want that maple flavor. Just stop feeling guilty, right?!

I ate this for four days, alone or in this crazy concoction one night…a vegan wrap with whole wheat tortilla, squash, spinach, Romaine lettuce, Daiya cheddar shreds, and my red lentils from earlier in the week (with Mexican seasoning). I know it sounds insane, but it worked. And I may even make it again someday. We will just hope it will not be on crutches. Hopping around the kitchen is exhausting!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you ever cooked a butternut squash? What did you make with it? I think next time I would like to try a butternut squash soup. Happy cooking!