Roasted Butternut Squash with Rosemary and Thyme

Now that we’ve finally had a couple of non-hot days here in sunny Austin, and my local food cooperative has inviting autumnal displays of squash and pumpkins, I am ready for fall!

I bought a couple of butternut squash, not knowing what I would do with them. I had a warm, spicy soup in mind, or maybe Smitten Kitchen’s Squash and Chickpea Salad, which I’ve heard great things about.

Luckily for my taste buds, someone at work surprised me with a bag of fresh rosemary this afternoon! This is what I came up with – so easy but so delicious. Herbs are great for easy but delightful flavor, and the added crunch of a roast makes this an irresistible side!

2 medium butternut squash, peeled and chopped
2 heaping Tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped or crushed
1 Tbsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan or blue cheese crumbles (optional, your choice)

1. Preheat oven to 375°. Chop herbs and mix them up in a bowl with the olive oil, so they have some time to soften up and infuse the oil with flavor while you prepare your squash.

2. If you’ve never prepared a butternut squash, and don’t know where to start, watch this. You want to cut your squash into medium-sized cubes, all roughly the same size.

3. Put all the squash into a large, oven-safe dish (I used a deep, tin baking dish). Pour olive oil and herb mixture over the squash and stir until all pieces are covered, adding more oil if necessary. Bake for 30 minutes uncovered.

4. After 30 minutes, remove the squash and stir, turning most of the pieces over for even cooking, and replace in oven. Cook for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until your squash is lightly browned.

5. Serve immediately dusted with freshly grated parmesan or blue cheese crumbles, if desired.

Serves 2-4. Refrigerates and reheats beautifully.

Pictured with homemade creamy mushroom rice.


Chilled Cucumber Soup

It’s that time of year again.

The time of year when my mom calls and says, “It’s so hot.  Can you believe how hot it is?”

Why, yes, actually–yes, I can.  My mother has lived in Texas for sixty-something summers, and she is still amazed–shocked–every year when August rolls around.

If you’re feeling the heat like we are, why not make a huge batch of this chilled delight to have on hand for lunch or dinner?  Like chicken salad, it’s a great summer meal because it’s served cold.  Unlike chicken salad, though, this one’s raw, so there is not a single moment of cooking involved!  That’s right; no standing over a hot stove and no firing up your oven.

I hope you enjoy this crisp, refreshing summer meal as much as we do.

4 large cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1.5 cups plain yogurt
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped
1 Tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped
1 tsp chili powder, plus a few pinches extra for garnish
2 cloves of minced garlic
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup crumbled goat’s cheese

1. Using a small mortar and pestle, grind garlic and salt into a paste.

2. In a food processor or blender, liquefy all ingredients, keeping aside a little chili powder and the goat’s cheese ; it may be necessary to blend in batches and then stir together in a large bowl.

3. Pour soup into four bowls, cover, and chill in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours.

4. To serve, sprinkle goat’s cheese and chili powder onto the top of each bowl of soup.

Serves 4. Delicious with a side of homemade bread (I added fresh rosemary and garlic to the loaf and served it alongside the soup, drizzled with a little olive oil).

An easy, healthy, and cooling summer treat!

Avocado Banana Smoothie

Ooh, look at this one!

This quick and easy smoothie recipe will start your day off luxuriously.  Smooth and mild, an avocado and banana smoothy is also pretty filling, and a great way to use up any extra avocados that didn’t quite make it into your guacamole.

You can thank me later.

1 cup apple juice (home juiced or bought)
1-2 bananas
1 avocado
1 heaping tsp ground flaxseeds
2 ice cubes

1. Pour juice, bananas, avocado meat, and flaxseeds into blender. Liquefy.

2. Add more juice if the mixture is too thick. Add ice cubes and blend on “ice crush” for a few seconds to achieve a lovely, shake-like, ice cold consistency.

3. Enjoy! It may look and sound a little weird, but, trust me, it’s delicious!

Perfect Oven-Baked Sweet Potatoes

Ninety nine times out of a hundred, when I’m served sweet potatoes, they’re mashed. And for good reason.

But these nutrient-dense, delightfully orange tubers can also be baked. Using this technique will result in warm, soft sweet potatoes with a crispy skin. Just add a little butter and cinnamon, and you have a Southern delicacy with very little clean-up!

2 sweet potatoes, scoured and washed
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cinnamon
butter to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400°. Puncture each potato several times with a fork. Thoroughly coat each potato in olive oil so they are glistening but not dripping oil. Place a pan on the bottom rack of the oven (to catch drippings), and potatoes on top, directly on oven rack.

2. Bake for approximately 45 minutes (or longer if your potatoes are very large or you are cooking a bigger batch).

3. Remove from oven and allow to sit for about five minutes. Slice open with knife, add a few pats of butter, and sprinkle with cinnamon. Add some brown sugar, too, if you’re so inclined.


Roasted Parsnips and Carrots

When I was in Wheatsville a couple of days ago, I ran across the largest parsnips I have ever seen. So of course I had to buy a couple and roast ’em!

This would make a great side dish for Thanksgiving, too.

~2 cups parsnips, peeled and cut into medium chunks
3 carrots, peeled and sliced into cylinders
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 Tbsp broth (your choice; I actually used mushroom broth here)
~1 Tbsp butter
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp sage
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425°. In a roasting pan, mix all ingredients except butter so that vegetables are covered thoroughly in broth, herbs, and spices. Evenly distribute pats of butter around mixture.

2. Place pan in oven and bake for approximately 20 minutes, then remove and stir to ensure even cooking.

3. After 30 minutes, remove the pan and check to see if the vegetables are done by inserting a fork into one of the larger pieces; if the flesh is soft and the fork comes out easily, they are done. The parsnips should be a nice golden brown color, with some crispness around the edges.

Serve immediately alongside your main course; in the UK, where I first encountered parsnips, they are commonly roasted in the pan with a joint of meat, but they’re also delicious roasted on their own like this. You could even use bacon grease in place of butter for a subtle, meatier flavor.

Makes enough for three to four sides.