Butternut Squash Home Fries

September 27, 2013 Menu No Comments

Aside from pumpkins, butternut squash is the food that I most associate with the fall season. Every autumn, without fail, I’ll pick up a butternut squash at least two or three times during the season. And every time I pick one up, I say to myself “ok, now what am I going to do different with this?” I love the traditional soups, risottos, pastas and baked butternut squash dishes, but I’m always on look-out for a new idea. Last week, after I bought my first butternut squash of the season, I did some research and put together a recipe for butternut squash home fries that has three easy steps:

1. easy to cut (this is always a challenge, since most fall squash are usually hard as a bullet);

2. easy to prepare; and

3. easy to serve.

What you’ll need for this recipe is one nice size butternut squash, a vegetable peeler, a sharp knife, some olive oil, salt and pepper, and some basic seasonings (suggestions for sweet and savory seasonings are listed below). Start by peeling the skin off of the squash. This step is actually a lot easier that I thought it would be. While the squash as a whole is very tough and often hard to slice through, the skin itself peels without much effort. Next, you are going to cut off and discard the top tip and the bulbous bottom part of the squash. The bottom part houses most of the seeds, so this steps helps you avoid messy cleanup. You can save the bulbous part for another recipe, but I found it wasn’t necessary for this dish.

The squash cut into four equal parts.

The squash cut into four equal parts.

Next, you are going to cut the squash in half lengthwise, then you are going to cut both halves in half again, lengthwise. Be sure to remove and discard any remaining seeds. You now have four long, thin pieces of squash.

The next step is to slice the squash into very thin slices. The thinner the slices, the crispier the home fries will be. Depending on the amount of time you have, you can use a food processor with the slicing blade, a vegetable peeler, or VERY CAREFULLY use a sharp knife. When the squash is sliced, you’ll want to place the slices into a bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Next you’ll want to add your salt and pepper, and your seasonings, and then mix everything up so that the slices are lightly and evenly coated.

Spread the slices evenly onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Make sure that the slices are not overlapping to guarantee that all of the slices are baked through. Place the tray into an oven pre-heated to 375º. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the slices start to brown and curl. Remove from the oven and let sit for a few minutes. The slices will harden and crisp up a bit as they cool. Serve it as a side dish to chicken, meat or fish.

THE SEASONINGS

The nice thing about this dish is that the seasoning could be either sweet or savory, depending on what you’re in the mood for and with what you are serving the home fries.

For sweet home fries, add 1/2 tspn (or to taste) of either cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, or allspice to the butternut squash. You can also add sliced apples to make it a festive fall dish.

For savory home fries, add some chopped thyme or sage leaves and 1/2 tspn (or to taste) of onion powder. You can also add parmesan cheese for extra flavor.

 

The home fries, perfectly crisp.

The home fries, perfectly crisp.

Follow up: My friend Tom, who does a thicker french fry-cut version of this recipe, noted that not only is this a quick and easy dish, but it is also a much healthier option than traditional french fries or even sweet potato fries, because it is baked and not fried. To make the french fry-cut version, cut into slightly larger pieces and bake for 40-45 minutes, turning half way through.

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Crock Pot Sausage, Peppers and Potatoes

September 14, 2013 Menu 1 Comment

As we get ready to nestle into the crisp fall season, I start getting geared up to do some hearty, rustic seasonal cooking. Because our weekends quickly get filled with leaf clean-up, hayrides, football games and back to school activities, it’s often hard to find the time needed to put together a big meal. This is when a crock pot, or a slow cooker, comes in handy.

Last weekend I put together a slow cooker version of an Italian-American favorite, the classic sausage and peppers. By simply adding some key ingredients to the crock pot for about 6 hours (I also added potatoes for extra heartiness), we were able to enjoy one of our favorite meals while still being able to take advantage of the day. This recipe will work well for a small party, game day grub, or a weekday meal.

 

 

Crock Pot Sausage, Peppers and Potatoes

1 lb. sausage (your choice of hot, sweet or gourmet stuffed – I used a chicken sausage stuffed with spinach and feta)
3 small-to-medium potatoes, cubed
3 bell peppers, seeded and sliced into strips (you can use green, red, yellow or orange, or any combination for mixed color)
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup red wine
Salt and Pepper to taste
Optional – 1 bouillon cube (chicken, beef or vegetable) for extra flavor

Cook the sausage by either frying on the stove top or baking in the oven, until browned. Slice the cooked sausage into 1 to 2 inch pieces. Place into the crock pot the diced tomatoes and their juices, the sausage, potatoes, peppers, onion, garlic, Italian seasoning, bouillon cube, water and wine. Any red wine that you have opened will work (although we were fortunate enough to have a bottle of home made red given to us by our good friend Jessica’s dad..NICE!). Stir all of the ingredients together. You can add additional water later on if needed. Place the lid on the crock pot and heat it on the slow setting for 6 to 6-1/2 hours, until the potatoes are tender. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve over, pasta, rice, shredded spaghetti squash, or serve it with crusty bread for dipping.

sausage_peps2

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A Review of Harpoon Pumpkin Cider

September 6, 2013 Menu 1 Comment

We’ve reached that time of year again when the kids are back to school, the weather slowly starts to change, and all things are turning up pumpkin! While I look forward to and embrace the pumpkin foods, spices and scents that pop up each fall season (if you’re a regular follower of my blog, you know by now that I enjoy featuring pumpkin-related recipes come the autumn season), one thing that I am a bit overwhelmed by is the early release and wide variety of pumpkin-related beers. It seems that each year, the pumpkin spiced beers are hitting the shelves earlier and earlier. Each year also brings a wider variety of pumpkin, autumn and Octoberfest beers. Because these beers move so quickly off the shelves, I try to stay ahead of the game by stock-piling my favorites as early as possible. This year I found myself purchasing a few bottles as early as late July, storing them in my basement until the cooler weather approaches.

Although I do tend to stick to most of my fall favorites (Souther Tier Pumking, Long Trail Harvest, Hacker Pschorr Original Octoberfest, Sam Adams Octoberfest, Harvest Moon), I do like to sample some of the new seasonals that I come across. This year I found a bottle that really piqued my interest – Harpoon Pumpkin Cider. Described as a combination of their traditional cider and their spicy winter warmer, it sounded like the perfect fall offering. The label is also very clever, depicting an apple carved out like a jack-o-lantern. Being a sucker for all things pumpkin, and also being a fan of most other Harpoon brews, I couldn’t pass up on grabbing a six pack to keep on hand. Since the weather has been a bit more comfortable at nights, I decided to give this one an early seasonal tasting.

Gotta say…this one didn’t quite live up to my expectations. While there was a nice aroma of fresh pressed apples, I could hardly pick up any of the traditional pumpkin spices. What shocked me even more was the color of the cider once I poured it. I was expecting a rich, amber-like color, but instead found it to be a very pale golden yellow, almost champagne-like. The taste was also very light and crispy, again almost champagne-like. Not a bad taste, but not what I was expecting. And again, no hints whatsoever of pumpkin spices. Many of the usual pumpkin spices would work well with apple cider (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg), even if ‘pumpkin’ wasn’t part of the equation. Unfortunately, I could’t detect any of it. Instead I was left with the impression that I had a glass of a light and crisp, slightly tart champagne. Not necessarily a bad drink, just not at all what I hoped for.

Each year, I usually come across one dud out of the bunch. Last year was Blue Moon’s Caramel Apple Cider. This year, the dud apparently came right out of the gate. Hopefully I’ll be able to enjoy the remainder of my fall stash. Luckily I have a basement full of fall brews, and an entire season to enjoy them!

If you are interested in trying a Harpoon seasonal, skip this one and go for their Octoberfest or their UFO Pumpkin.

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