BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND MUSHROOM SOUP

Mushrooms, butternut squash and thyme were made to be eaten together and this winter soup captures their earthy flavors in every velvety bite. You can warm up with this bowl of soup on a cold day by the fire while reading a good book. Leftovers freeze well, just defrost in the refrigerator and warm up on the stovetop for a super fast meal.

Ingredients:
1 medium butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
8 ounces whole white mushrooms, sliced
8 ounces baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
32 ounces low sodium vegetable broth
Sour cream (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. On a medium-sized baking sheet, place squash halves flesh side down. Roast until flesh is tender, about 50 to 60 minutes. Set aside until cool enough to touch. This step can be done several hours earlier or the day before.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and mushrooms and sauté until tender and lightly brown, about 20 minutes. Season with thyme, salt and pepper.
  3. Place mushroom mixture in a blender or food processor. Add two cups of vegetable broth and puree until smooth. Add mushroom mixture to a large stock pot.
  4. Scoop flesh of butternut squash and puree in blender or food processor with remaining vegetable broth.
  5. Add squash mixture to stock pot and stir to combine. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and reduce to a low simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed before serve with a dollop of sour cream.

Servings: 4

Fall Salad with Pecan Sorghum Granola

Granola on a salad sounds weird, but trust me it is delicious! The first granola-topped salad I ever tasted was amazingly delicious, made with pine nuts from the BlueFire Bar and Grill. With just one bite it fueled my curiosity to create my own nutty sweet salad topping. My version, Pecan Sorghum Granola, features seasonal pecans and whole grain oats that are lightly sweetened with sorghum, adding the perfect crunch to this fall salad with earthy, tender-roasted beets and mildly sweet acorn squash.

A simple vinaigrette is all you need for this flavorful salad bursting with color and nutrients. For some extra protein, top with grilled chicken or shrimp. Save cook time by using leftover roasted squash and beets from last night’s dinner and granola from breakfast for a salad you can throw together in about two minutes.

Salad Ingredients:
1 bunch beets, scrubbed
1 acorn squash or butternut squash
2 teaspoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 bunch or 6 ounce bag spinach
¾ cup Pecan Sorghum Granola
4 ounces goat cheese

Vinaigrette Ingredients:
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey mustard
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Leave the skin on the beets and wrap each in aluminum foil. Place on a baking sheet and roast until tender, about 35 to 55 minutes, depending on their size. Remove beets and set aside until cool enough to touch. With a small pairing knife, gently remove skin from the beets and chop into cubes.
  2. Meanwhile, peel squash and slice in half. Discard seeds and chop into cubes. Place on a baking sheet in an even layer and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and roast until tender, about 30 to 35 minutes.
  3. Combine olive oil, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper in a mason jar. Tightly secure the lid and shake until well combined.
  4. Create a bed of spinach on four plates and top with an equal amount of roasted beets and squash. Crumble 1 ounce of goat cheese on each salad and sprinkle with my crunchy granola and a drizzle of vinaigrette.

Servings: 4

BUTTERNUT SQUASH BURGERS

Butternut squash adds a touch of sweetness to this vegetarian burger as it compliments the nutty chickpeas, toasted walnuts, fried sage leaves and blue cheese. This hearty burger pairs well with homemade french fries or a simple side salad.

Veggie burgers are so easy to make and these homemade patties taste a million times better than any of the frozen varieties. If you have never had a homemade vegetarian burger, you are in for a treat. And speaking of frozen patties, leftovers freeze well for a quick meal down the road.

Ingredients:
1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ tablespoon butter
7 fresh sage leaves
1 (15.5 ounces) can no-salt-added chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 egg
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup quick cooking oats
½ cup walnuts, toasted
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
4 ounces crumbled feta or blue cheese
¼ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Spring mix lettuce, for serving
8 whole wheat buns

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. On a large baking sheet, add butternut squash and drizzle with olive oil. Toss to evenly coat before arranging squash in a single layer. Roast for 30 to 35 minutes until tender and lightly brown, flipping with a spatula halfway through cooking.
  2. Meanwhile, melt butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add sage leaves and fry for about 30 seconds on each side. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
  3. In a food processor, combine the squash, chickpeas, egg, garlic, oats, walnuts, salt and pepper. Crumble the fried sage leaves into the mixture. Pulse until thoroughly combined, and form into 8 patties.
  4. Spray a nonstick skillet, grill pan or griddle with cooking spray and heat to medium-high. Working in batches, cook the burgers for 4 to 5 minutes per side, until lightly browned. Top with an equal amount of cheese crumbles after you flip the burger, this will allow time for just enough melting to keep the cheese in place.
  5. While butternut squash burgers cook, whisk together mayonnaise and balsamic vinegar. Set balsamic mayo aside until ready to serve.
  6. Serve butternut squash burgers on whole wheat buns spread with balsamic mayo and topped with desired amount of spring mix lettuce.

Serves: 8

Roasted Acorn Squash with Quinoa and Greens

Fall squash and greens are two of my seasonal favorites and this dish includes them both for a hearty vegetarian meal. Roasted Acorn Squash and Quinoa with Greens also makes an elegant side dish served with roasted pork tenderloin and a simple salad.

Roasting acorn squash makes the skin tender enough to eat and not having to peel the squash saves time in the kitchen. This recipe is pretty hands-off, giving you more time to relax while your nutritious dinner is cooking.

Ingredients:
1 medium acorn squash
2 tablespoon olive oil, divided
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ cup quinoa
1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
1 bunch kale or other greens
1 tablespoon water
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut acorn squash in half and remove the seeds. Trim each half into thin wedges and place on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with nutmeg. Bake until tender and golden brown, for about 45 minutes.
  2. Add quinoa and vegetable broth to a rice cooker and cook for 30 minutes.
  3. Remove stems from kale and roughly chop. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, add kale and water. Sauté for 4 to 5 minutes, until wilted.
  4. When quinoa is done, fluff with a fork and stir in kale, salt and pepper. Serve squash wedges on top of quinoa and top with crumbled goat cheese.

Note: If you do not have a rice cooker, follow the package instructions for preparing quinoa on the stove top.

WATERMELON, TOMATO AND BURRATA CHEESE

When I think of summer, watermelon and tomatoes immediately come to mind. They are two of my favorite seasonal foods and they compliment each other nicely in this appetizer with creamy and decadent burrata cheese. The outer layer of this cheese is fresh mozzarella, and when you slice it in half you will discover a luscious, creamy center made of mozzarella soaked in cream. It is the perfect cheese to pair with this summertime appetizer. This is a great last-minute dish for entertaining guests or taking to a potluck. Cheers to fresh and easy dishes and enjoying the final days of summer!

Ingredients:
burrata cheese
½ seedless watermelon, sliced
2 tomatoes, sliced
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon balsamic glaze

Directions:

  1. Place burrata on a large serving platter, layering slices of watermelon and tomatoes around the cheese.
  2. Sprinkle with salt and drizzle with balsamic glaze. Serve immediately.

Curried Tofu Salad

Curry is one of my favorite ingredients to add to creamy salads like this one, and the first curried tofu salad I tasted was at the Good Foods Co-Op in Lexington, KY. After daydreaming about it so much, I had to create my take on the dish, accompanied with plump golden raisins, crunchy almonds and Greek yogurt. Enjoy my Curried Tofu Salad as a wrap with fresh lettuce or as a sandwich on whole wheat bread. Offering both bread and lettuce options and a few types of sandwich spreads is an easy way to entertain and delight your guests with a build-your-own lunch option. For the meat eaters in your life, chicken is a great substitution for the tofu in this dish.

Ingredients:
1 (16 ounce) block firm tofu
⅓ cup golden raisins
1 cup low-fat Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons curry powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup shredded carrots
¼ cup sliced almonds

Directions:

  1. Place the block of tofu between a few layers of paper towels and place a heavy plate on top. Set aside for 10 to 20 minutes to press and absorb the water from the tofu.
  2. Meanwhile, place raisins in a small bowl. Add enough hot water to cover and set aside.
  3. Crumble tofu in a medium bowl.
  4. In a large bowl, stir together yogurt, curry powder, salt and pepper.
  5. Drain water from raisins. Fold raisons, carrots, almonds and tofu into the yogurt mixture, stirring to evenly coat. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Servings: 4

Garlic Scape Pesto

If you love garlic, you’ll love this take on a traditional pesto using garlic If you love garlic, you’ll love my take on a traditional pesto using garlic scapes instead of basil. For a quick dinner, add a couple of tablespoons pesto to cooked pasta and top with grilled or sautéed shrimp. Whip up a simple and delicious appetizer by spreading this pesto over baguettes slices and topping with sautéed mushrooms. Serve it up for breakfast in an omelet with black beans and spinach. The possibilities are endless and this pesto freezes well to use in future meals.

Ingredients:

10 garlic scapes
½ cup walnuts, toasted
⅓ cup cotija cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
freshly ground salt and pepper
⅓ cup olive oil

Directions:

  1. Trim garlic scapes at the base of the bulb, discarding the tops. Roughly chop the long stems. Place garlic scapes in a food processor fitted with the metal blade.
  2. Add walnuts, cotija cheese, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Slowly add the olive oil while processing until the ingredients are well blended.
  3. Serve or freeze. To freeze, fill mini-muffin tin cups ¾ full and place in the freezer for 30 minutes to an hour. Remove and store pesto in a freezer-safe container until ready to use.

Spring Salad with Strawberry Champagne Vinaigrette

What a glorious treat to receive fresh strawberries in my spring CSA share. Not only because they are beautiful and delicious, but because I know how much hard work and love the farmers put into growing them and protecting them during an up and down weather season. Thank you Sustainable Harvest Farm for all you do to provide produce for my family and many others.

This salad is one of my favorite ways to enjoy fresh strawberries. Serve it as a side salad or add grilled salmon or chicken for a main meal.

Ingredients:
1 head lettuce
2 tablespoons strawberry jam
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
pinch of salt and pepper
1 pint strawberries
¼ cup chopped pecans, toasted
blue cheese crumbles for serving

Directions:

  1. Wash and tear lettuce leaves and place in a large bowl.
  2. In a small jar with a lid, combine strawberry jam, champagne vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Shake until well combined.
  3. Drizzle lettuce with strawberry champagne vinaigrette and top salad with an equal amount of strawberries, pecans and blue cheese.

SORGHUM ROASTED ACORN SQUASH

Roasted acorn squash, drizzled with sorghum enhances the flavor of this sweet vegetable. Top it off with a quick sorghum yogurt that turns tangy plain yogurt into a candy-like cream. This versatile dish goes well as a side, desert, snack or breakfast.

While sorghum is widely available in the southern United States, other readers may not have access. Honey or molasses are good substitutes, but sorghum has a luscious sweetness that is crave worthy. When enjoying this dish, go ahead and eat the skin of the squash. Roasting the squash will leave you with a tender green exterior that is edible and nutritious.

Roasted Acorn Squash Ingredients:
2 small acorn squash, quartered and seeded
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons sorghum

Sorghum Yogurt Ingredients:
1 (17.6 ounce) container plain, low-fat Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons sorghum

Toppings:
Toasted Pecans
Cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place squash wedges, skin side down on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Sprinkle with salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  2. Cut butter into 8 small pieces and place one in the center of each squash wedge. Drizzle equally with sorghum. Roast until tender when pierced with a fork, about 40 to 45 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, combine yogurt and sorghum in a medium bowl and stir until well combined. Chill until ready to serve.
  4. Remove squash from oven and serve with a dollop of sorghum yogurt, toasted pecans and a dash of cinnamon.

Servings: 8

Sweet Piquante Pepper Cheese Spread

This spread is a unique take on pimento and cheese made with piquante peppers, which give it a sweet heat kick. These cherry tomato shaped peppers are often labeled under the brand name Peppadew® and are commonly found in the olive bar section of grocery stores. A friend introduced me to the combination of cheese and sweet piquante peppers a few years ago, and I have been in love with this pairing since my first bite. Whole sweet piquante peppers make a lovely addition to cheese boards and compliment a wide variety of cheeses.

If you’re watching the big game this weekend, this is a great appetizer to serve along with your favorite beer.

Ingredients:
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1½ cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
¾ cup mild whole sweet piquante peppers, chopped
¼ cup mayonnaise with olive oil
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
Celery sticks or crackers for serving

Directions:

  1. Place the yogurt in a food processor. Add cheese, peppers, mayonnaise and garlic powder, and pulse until the cheese spread is well combined.
  2. Chill for at least an hour or overnight. Serve with celery sticks or crackers.