Thursday, October 12, 2017

Spaghetti with Squash and Spinach

Pasta tossed with seasonal vegetables is weeknight cooking at its best. I’ve posted countless spring and summer versions of this on The Messy Apron, but not so many of the fall and winter variety. That’s where this simple and delicious recipe comes in.

This pasta toss is loaded with roasted winter squash, spinach sautéed with garlic, and a handful of walnuts. I like the sweetness of the squash combined with the earthiness of the spinach and crunchy walnuts. I also put in a splash of cider vinegar, but lemon juice, which was in the original inspiration recipe, might be even better.

In order for this dish to be utterly simple to throw together, the squash needs to be handled ahead of time. The way I managed it was to peel and cube the squash one day, roast it with olive oil and salt another day, and keep it in the refrigerator until I was ready to make pasta. This requires some planning ahead, but that’s the only way I can get just about anything interesting going. 

There are lots of ways to vary this, of course. I used a red kuri squash, but butternut would be even easier to peel and cut, and Hubbard or other similar sweet winter squash would be great, too. You could replace the spinach with kale or chard, or with any greens you like. I love the walnuts here, but they don’t need to be there if you don’t want them, or you could replace them with something like pine nuts or pumpkin seeds. I added a garnish of parmesan cheese to each serving of my spaghetti, but you could easily make it vegan by just leaving it off.

As a reward for my successful planning and preparations, I also have the rest of my squash all ready to go for another recipe. I’m thinking of this Squash and Pinto Bean Chili from the archives for some warm comfort as these autumn nights get colder. Mmmmm…..good eating this week!

Spaghetti with Winter Squash, Spinach, and Walnuts
Based on a recipe from Lazy Cat Kitchen

2 cups cubed (about 1-inch), peeled winter squash
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon coarse salt, divided, plus more for the pasta water
½ pound spaghetti or other long pasta
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon crushed chile flakes
4 cups fresh spinach, chopped if leaves are large
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
½ cup chopped walnuts
Chopped fresh parsley and grated parmesan for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Combine the squash, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and ½ teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Toss together to coat the squash well. Transfer to a roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet. Roast at 400 F until tender and lightly browned, about 20-25 minutes, stirring once or twice. Remove from the oven and set aside. (This can be done ahead of time. Cover and chill until ready to use.)

2. Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water until it is as tender as you like to eat it. Drain and keep warm.

3. In a large saute pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, about 1 minute, or until fragrant and just beginning to brown. Add the crushed chile flakes and cook about 15 seconds more.

4. Add the spinach and remaining ½ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the spinach is completely wilted. Stir in the cooked squash. Add the cooked spaghetti and cider vinegar and toss to combine well.

5. Stir in the walnuts and remove from the heat. Garnish each serving with parsley and parmesan if desired.

Makes about 4 main dish servings.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

14 Sweet Pumpkin Recipes

I love baking with pumpkin this time of year. While I do like to take a beautiful little sugar pumpkin, roast it and make my own pumpkin puree using the method in this old post, most of the time I use canned pumpkin. It’s quick and convenient, many recipes are calibrated to the amount of pumpkin in a 15-ounce can, it’s consistent, and it’s downright good. Armed with a few cans of pumpkin puree and a jar of Pumpkin Pie Spice, I can celebrate fall and winter in sweet and delicious style.

A couple of easy recipes include Sweet Pumpkin Dip

That pumpkin-loaded applesauce can be used in Applesauce and Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting.

Or even Pumpkin Waffles.

There’s also Butterscotch Pumpkin Fudge to satisfy the extra sweet tooth, but the best pumpkin baking is in the form of pumpkin pie, such as Grandmama’s Pumpkin Pie

So, welcome, Great Pumpkin! You’ll always be invited here.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Fluffernutter Dip

This recipe is almost silly. It’s ludicrously easy to make. It has dubious (at best) nutritional value. It’s designed pretty much just for fun. It even has a goofy name.

But something this ridiculously delicious is allowed to be as silly as it needs to be! This dip is so good I have to be careful. It’s delicious on apples or graham crackers. I think pretzels would be good dipped in it as well. It’s great spread on a toasted slice of sandwich bread or baguette. It’s yummy licked right off of a spoon. I’m even thinking I might just eat a stick dipped in this stuff! 

This sweet and delicious dip is, of course, based on the fluffernutter sandwich, which is made by spreading creamy peanut butter and marshmallow fluff on bread, probably white bread, so it can be as squishy as possible. I never eat such sandwiches (although my husband does), but a dip. Hmmmm.

What made me just go ahead and do it was the cream cheese base, similar to what was going on in this dip and the dip in this post, both of which I adore. That cream cheese turns out to be what saves the fluffernutter dip from the super sweetness of marshmallow fluff and the relative natural sweetness of peanut butter. It gives it a good balance of tanginess as well as sturdy base. It might also help make one believe that this is actually food, rather than just candy.

And now I’m in trouble. As I mentioned above, this is not just great for dipping, but it’s good as a spread, too. When kept in the refrigerator, it even stays spreadable, and so, I’m afraid this is not just becoming a snack food in my house, but a part of a complete breakfast as well.

Since this makes a pretty big bowl of dip, I’m trying to think of some other ways to use it. It could easily be spread on just about anything that one might spread peanut butter or cream cheese, but I’m thinking it might just be good baked into some kind of pastry. It might even be good as a frosting. I’m hoping to have some time to experiment this week. Otherwise, I’m going to need a lot more sticks.

Fluffernutter Cream Cheese Dip (or Spread)
Based on a variety of recipes

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
7 ounces marshmallow crème (aka Fluff)
½ cup creamy peanut butter

1. With a hand-held electric mixer, beat the cream cheese in a medium-size bowl until it is fluffy.

2. Add the marshmallow crème. Beat until smooth.

3. Add the peanut butter. Fold in with a spoon or rubber spatula until well combined, but a few streaks and stripes of peanut butter are still visible. Serve as a dip with apples, graham crackers, etc., or as a spread on bread.

Makes about 2 cups