Butternut Squash “Fries”

Pumpkin Fries

If you like sweet potato fries, these baked butternut squash “fries” are a great alternative with fewer carbs and filled with healthy nutrients.  This recipe could just as easily be applied to sweet potatoes as well.

To make you will need:
1 whole butternut squash
2 tsp olive or avocado oil
salt & pepper

Directions:
1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees
2. Peel butternut squash, cut in half length-wise and remove seeds.
3. Cut in half a second time width-wise and then cut into sticks or “fries”, about 1/4″ thick.
4. Place on foil lined baking sheet (you don’t have to use the foil, but I find it makes clean up easier).
5. Spread butternut squash sticks/fries evenly out on pan.
6. Drizzle oil over the squash and use a basting brush to coat sticks/fries evenly.
7. Sprinkle with salt & pepper to taste (or you may use cinnamon if you prefer a sweeter taste).
8. Bake at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes depending on desired texture.

These are great out of the oven on their own, but if you like a dipping sauce I recommend something a bit sweeter like honey.

Blues & Greens Salad

Blueberry Salad

This simple salad is amazing with a burst of fresh summer blueberry in every bite!  As I’ve noted before in previous posts I tend not to be overly concerned with exact measurements in any kind of salad with greens as the base, but I always like to provide a general guide of what goes into my salads so you can adjust to your own liking & preference based on what you have on hand. The flavor combination of this salad is both sweet & nutty and will not disappoint.

Yield: 4 servings

You will need:
5.5 oz field greens mix
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup chopped bartlett pear
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese

I like to leave a little of each ingredient off to the side before tossing the salad. Toss (and add dressing if desired), then top with remaining toppings for presentation on the table. I serve this salad with a sweet poppy seed dressing, but it’s also great tossed with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar or another dressing that’s a little bit on the sweeter side like a raspberry vinaigrette.

Pumpkin Spice Zucchini Muffins

Pumpkin Spice Zucchini Muffins

It’s that time of year when zucchini is in full abundance.  Yay!  I love zucchini and there are so many different ways I use them during the summer months.  Yesterday I had a couple sitting on my counter left over from last week, conveniently had all the essentials for baking and some time to spare so I whipped these muffins up.  They let me enjoy one of my favorite summer veggies while also serving as a reminder that my favorite time of year is not too far off.

Yield: 24 muffins

To make, you will need:
2 1/2 cups grated zucchini (I used a blend of zucchini & yellow squash or “golden zucchini”)
3 cups white flour
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 15 oz. can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix, just pumpkin)
4 eggs

Directions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Line 2 standard 12-slot muffin pans with cupcake/muffin liners.
3. Over a clean kitchen towel you don’t mind getting wet or even stained, grate the zucchini and then wrap the zucchini with the towel so it forms a ball.  Wring out all of the water in the zucchini over the sink.  I did this in two batches instead of one so it let me get more of the water out.  Leave grated zucchini in a small bowl off to the side.
4. In a medium mixing bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients together well (flour, brown sugar, white sugar, pumpkin spice, baking soda & salt) and set off to the side.
5. In a large mixing bowl, mix the eggs, vanilla & pumpkin together and then add in the melted butter.
6. Slowly blend the dry mixture into the pumpkin mixture.  I add about 1/2 cup at a time until it’s all blended.
7. Fold in the grated zucchini.  You will want to use a spoon or spatula for this step instead of your mixer so that the zucchini stays in tact.
8. Scoop/Spoon the batter into the lined muffin pan.  I used a large cookie dough scoop.
9. Bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes and pull from oven when a toothpick comes out clean.
10. Cool completely before serving.  You will be tempted to try a muffin right away, but this is one recipe that really needs to sit & cool first.  If they aren’t fully cooled off they will not peel from the liners easily.  Trust me, they are worth the wait!

These are great on their own, but you can spread a little butter on them if you desire.

Note: Do not skip wringing the water out of the zucchini.  This is an important step in ensuring the batter cooks through and the muffins don’t come out soggy.

 

“GO TEAM USA!” Fruit Salad

Team USA Salad

I am so excited for the Olympics this summer!  I’m much more of a summer Olympics fan than a winter Olympics fan and can’t wait to watch the opening ceremonies in just a few weeks.  In the meantime I’m following the Team USA coverage on their Facebook page.

This past week I was challenged to try a fruit or vegetable I’ve never tried before.  While walking through the produce section there wasn’t much I hadn’t tried, but then I came upon the dragon fruit.  Bingo!  Not sure what to do with it I simply peeled back the pink skin like a banana and inside found the round white fruit with little seeds.  I liked it, but I’ll admit I did not love it as a stand-alone fruit choice and prefer it paired with something else.  So I got creative and sliced it up, got out my little star cookie cutter from Pampered Chef and just like that I had my “GO TEAM USA” fruit salad, which I’m sure will also now become my Memorial Day & 4th of July fruit salad as well.

Yield: 2-3 servings (adjust as needed depending on number of desired servings)

To make, you will need:
2 cups fresh strawberries, halved
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 dragon fruit, skin peeled and sliced about 1/4″

Directions:
1. Mix strawberries & blueberries together in medium bowl.
2. Using a mini-star cookie cutter, cut the dragon fruit slices into stars.
3. Top the berries with the dragon fruit stars.

Notes:
If you don’t have a star cookie cutter, you can just slice the dragon fruit rounds into halves or quarters.

Mediterranean Pita Dip

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The best way to guarantee at least one healthy option at this weekend’s holiday picnic is to bring one.  I typically make my layered taco dip for the 4th of July celebrations every year.  It’s loaded with sour cream, cream cheese, cheese & other toppings and it is delicious. This year though I’m focused on more healthy options and made this Mediterranean layered dip instead.  Similar concept, but such a better alternative and there is so much flavor!

You will need:
1 1/2 cups hummus
1/2 cup chopped seeded cucumber
1/2 cup chopped red tomato
1/3 cup feta cheese
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup black sliced olives
1/4 cup sliced artichoke hearts

To make:
1. Spread hummus evenly across a platter (I used a standard dinner plate size platter).
2. Top hummus evenly with chopped cucumber, red onion, tomato, olives, artichokes & feta cheese.
3. Serve with plain pita chips, sliced fresh pita bread, corn chips or bagel chips (I serve with plain pita chips).

Happy 4th of July!

Watermelon Salsa

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With temps hitting the 90’s yesterday, it’s safe to say that summer has officially arrived in Western New York.  As a result this watermelon salsa may or may not have turned into Sunday’s dinner.  So easy, light & refreshing!  To make, I used:

4 cups chopped seedless watermelon
1 pint blueberries
1 cup seeded cucumber chopped (peeled skin first)
2 tbsp fresh lime juice (juice of about 1 lime)

Toss gently.  You can serve alone as a side or salad, or with tortilla chips (I used Key Lime tortilla chips from Late July).

 

 

Spring Fruit & Chicken Salad

Spring Salad When it comes to salads I tend not to be by the book on specific measurements and more often than not just find myself working with whatever I have on hand, and what I like more/less of in terms of flavor. I don’t worry too much about exact qty since you really can’t mess up a cold salad with greens as the base, but here’s a guide of what I put in this delicious spring salad.

5.5 oz. field green mix
1 cubed large baked chicken breast
1/2 cup blackberries
1 cup sliced strawberries (I halved them)
1/4 chopped red onion
1/3 cup feta cheese
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
2 Tbsp pumpkin seeds

I like to leave a little of each ingredient off to the side before tossing the salad. Toss (and add dressing if desired), then top with remaining toppings for presentation on the table. I served this salad with a sweet poppy seed dressing, but it’s also great tossed with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Cheese, Fruit & Nut Platter

Platter I find you can never go wrong by keeping things fresh & simple. This cheese, fruit & nut platter is just that. Always a crowd pleaser with healthy options and no recipe required. For this platter I used buttery brie, colby jack cheese, stone wheat crackers, green grapes, blackberries, cherries, nectarines, granny smith apple, kiwi, strawberries, almonds & pistachios. I could eat this every day!

Lemon Parmesan Crusted Cod

IMG_0118 I’ve mentioned before in some of my previous posts that there is a little shop locally I love called Farmers & Artisans. They focus on all natural whole foods and one of their offerings is a fresh weekly seafood catch. They let you know what the choice for the week is on Monday, you place your order by Thursday morning, they catch it and ship it overnight. We’re talking fresh fish here! This week’s offering was Pacific Cod from Alaska. I ordered some and as usual I was not disappointed. Given it’s the first real Spring day here in Western New York I opted for a little lemon flavor and made this lemon parmesan crust for the fish. It came out great!

Servings: 2 or 4 depending on how you opt to cut the fish

You will need:
1 lb. cod
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
2 tbsp fresh grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp parsley
1/2 tsp lemon pepper seasoning
3 tbsp milk
olive oil spray (I use real extra virgin/cold press olive oil in a Misto sprayer)

To make:
1. Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. Be sure the cod has been skinned & de-boned. I run the fish under a cold water rinse and cut the filets into 4 smaller pieces.
2. In a small mixing bowl, mix together the panko bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, parsley & lemon pepper seasoning.
3. Put the milk on a dinner size plate and coat both sides of the fish. Dip the fish in the bread crumb mixture until coated on both sides.
4. Put all 4 pieces of fish in an ungreased glass baking dish and top with any remaining bread crumb mix. Spray with olive oil.
5. Bake for 15-18 minutes until you have a light tender flake.

Serve with a seasonal vegetable and you have a flavorful & healthy dinner on the table in less than a half hour.

Note: If you prefer a stronger lemon flavor, use 1 tsp. of lemon pepper seasoning instead of 1/2 tsp.

Texas Caviar

Bean Dip Let’s start with the color in this bean dip, also known as “Texas Caviar”, so many colors! This is one of my favorite dishes. It is so easy, full of flavor & healthy. I make this often for casual get together’s and I also make it just to keep in the fridge during the week for a quick snack, side dish or even a meal with the beans stuffed in pita pockets. This makes a pretty big batch, about 8-9 cups, so left overs are common and can be stored in the fridge for up to a week.

You will need:
1 15.5 oz. can black eyed peas
1 15.5 oz. can cannellini beans
1 15.5 oz. can black beans
1 15.5 oz. kernel corn in water
1 red bell pepper
1 orange bell pepper
1 medium red onion
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp parsley flakes
1/2 tsp basil
salt & pepper to taste
tortilla chips

To make:
1. Open the cans of beans & corn and rinse in a strainer under cold water. With using canned beans instead of fresh beans there will be some added sodium so you will want to rinse the beans well.
2. Remove the hearts from the bell peppers and dice finely.
3. Cut the ends of the red onion and remove the skin, dice finely.
4. Mix the beans, peppers and onion together in a large mixing bowl.
5. In a small mixing bowl whisk together the oil, vinegar, parsley & basil, pour over bean mix and stir well.
6. Add fresh ground salt & pepper to taste.
7. Serve in a bowl with tortilla chips.

Note: When storing the left overs, the vinegar will settle at the bottom. I always give the container a quick shake to re-coat the beans before serving again.