Category: Dried Fruit

38 Power Foods, Week 15 — Winter Squash — Israeli Couscous-Butternut Squash Salad with Fall Fruit, Cheese and Orange Vinaigrette

38 Power Foods, Week 15 — Winter Squash — Israeli Couscous-Butternut Squash Salad with Fall Fruit, Cheese and Orange Vinaigrette

How are new salads born at my house?    Like this……

I’ve had some Israeli couscous (actually a blend) in my cabinet for a few months.  Waiting.
Typically I throw some leeks, garlic, and asparagus in a sauté pan come spring and throw those lovely things into a bowl of couscous or orzo with a handful of grated Parmesan and lots of black pepper.

When I realized this was the week to blog winter squash, a different group of ingredients started to percolate.  Despite the summer tomatoes still coming on (albeit slowly) and the basil crying for that last bowl of pesto to be made, I kept thinking fall food once the squash got in my head.  Cranberries, apples, pears, sharp cheese, nuts.

Fall..I adore pears…here I’ve just poached them slowly in port with some orange peel and cinnamon sticks.

Thursday I had a big pot of turkey chili on the stove and called some friends to run over and help eat it.  This salad, which began in my head days before it ended up in our stomachs,  started the meal.  I cooked the couscous and started chopping fruit and toasting nuts.  It came together that easily; it’s fairly fast, too.  I did think I might have liked walnut oil for the vinaigrette, but the only can I had was in the frig at our Colorado house where it’ll stay a bit fresher over the time we’re not there.

Could it be a whole meal?  Definitely.  Since it has oranges to keep the fresh fruit from turning brown, I think it’ll keep a day or so…but no more.  It might be a filling and happy side for a quick Thanksgiving meal:  roast a turkey breast, make this salad, and cook some of those green beans you’ve been freezing.  Anyway, here’s how:

Follow the photo-easy recipe:

Cook 8 ounces of  Israeli Couscous*  according to package directions. Use chicken broth in place of water. You can add a few leaves of fresh sage if you have them (remove before making salad).  When couscous is tender, add 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil and 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil while still hot.  Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon each kosher salt and fresh ground white pepper.  Optional:  Stir in 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper. Cool to room temperature.
Toast 1/4 cup pecans in a dry small skillet and chop, reserving a few whole nuts for garnish.
Dice (medium) 1 pear, 1 apple, 1 orange (peeled),  6 dried figs (or fresh), 1 small cooked butternut squash (see below for my microwave directions).  Dice (small):  2 oz. each sharp cheddar and Swiss cheese like Jarlsberg or Emmental or even Gruyere.
Mix fruit, squash,  cheese, 1/4 cup dried cranberries, and pecans with cooled couscous.  Add the juice of another orange and 1 teaspoon honey.  Stir well, taste and adjust seasonings and/or dressing.  Serve in a bowl lined with fresh spinach leaves and garnish with reserved whole pecans.

 6 servings

We liked this salad with coffee cup pumpkin-chocolate chip muffins.

*I used Harvest Grains Blend from Trader Joe’s (available on amazon.com as well), which is a “savory blend of Israeli Couscous, Orzo, Baby Garbanzo beans, and Red Quinoa.”  Regular Israeli or pearl couscous is fine and orzo or even farro would be easily workable substitutes.

Ingredients list:  8oz Israeli couscous or blend, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper (optional), fresh sage leaves (optional), 1 3/4 cups chicken broth (used 1 15 oz. can plus a little water), 1 1/2 tablespoons each canola and extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup pecans,  1 small butternut squash, 1 pear, 1 apple, 2 oranges (1 in salad, 1 juiced), 6 figs (fresh or dried), 1/4 cup dried cranberries, 2 ounces each sharp cheddar  and Swiss cheeses, 1 teaspoon honey, 2 cups fresh spinach leaves

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HOW TO COOK BUTTERNUT SQUASH IN THE MICROWAVE:

   Place squash in a large microwave-safe dish and, using a sharp thin knife, poke a few holes in the largest section for escaping steam.  Microwave on high 3-5 minutes (depending on size of the squash–a 1.5lb squash might take 5 minutes, for example) and remove the squash to a cutting board.   Using a large chef’s knife, carefully cut the squash in half horizontally and  with a large spoon, scoop out seeds and strings.   Place the two halves back in the baking dish with a little (2 tablespoons or so) water and put the dish back in the microwave.  Cook another five minutes on high or so (depending on the size of the squash) until tender. Covering the squash with plastic wrap or a microwave-safe cover will decrease the cooking time.   I have also filled the center section with butter and a little brown sugar and served it just like that. (I often do this with acorn squash for a quick hot lunch.)  Otherwise, you can let the squash cool, and then peel and chop or mash it according to your needs.  This is much easier than peeling (or cutting) raw butternut squash, which is, at best, difficult.
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I cook winter squash frequently and my reasons are many.  Here are a few:

1.  It’s delicious; it’s good for your body.
2.  It’s easy to prepare in several ways: Stick in oven, saute, braise, boil, or microwave.
3.  It’s useful as a vegetable or side, but is also hearty enough for a main dish. (Stuff with cumin rice, jack cheese and scrambled eggs for breakfast!)
4.  It’s an excellent addition to soups and stews.
5.  It’s a good substitute for potatoes with pot roast or roasted chicken.
6.  It’s inexpensive and easy to find nearly year round, but particularly now.
7.  It keeps on the counter for a long time–easily 2 months. (That’s about the limit for acorn; the others can keep much longer.)

Be brave and try whatever beautiful squash you find at the market.  Whatever you do with acorn squash, you can easily do with most of the others.  Even spaghetti squash is quickly cooked in the microwave.  Shred it with a fork, add a little butter (salt/pepper) and you have a beautiful meal.  And, yes, you can add marinara and stay on South Beach, phase 2!!

Don’t want to deal with the peel?  You can buy peeled and cubed butternut squash or pumpkin at some markets, but you will pay a premium price.

Nutrition Profile for Butternut Squash

Each cup of cubed butternut squash provides approximately 60 calories, 16 g of carbohydrates and 3 g of fiber. It also supplies almost 300 percent of your daily value of vitamin A, 50 percent of vitamin C, 7 percent of calcium and 5 percent of iron.

 Want more info on winter squash, including nutrition and recipes?  Visit the Snap-Ed (USDA) site here.

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If you liked this, you might also like this recipe from my Dinner Place blog.

rosemary chicken thighs with butternut squash, onions, and fennel

Throw it all together with olive oil; slip it into the oven on a big rimmed baking sheet.  Dinner emerges in about 35 minutes!

or you might like this:

roasted orange chicken and butternut squash (meal in a pan)

or my butternut and other squash soup

This is a lovely soup for someone who is not well or can’t chew, but is luscious as well for a first course at Thanksiving.

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I blog with a great group of food writers on Fridays as we cook our way through the list of foods from Whole Living Magazine’s Power Foods:  150 Delicious Recipes with the 38 Healthiest Ingredients:    Read more about beautiful winter squash this week at these sites:


Alanna –  http://kitchen-parade-veggieventure.blogspot.com/

Minnie Gupta from TheLady8Home.com

Sarah – Everything in the Kitchen Sink
.
Join us:

If you’re interested in joining the gang writing each week, get in touch with Mireya from My Healthy Eating Habits:  Mireya@MyHealthyEatingHabits.com

Sing a new song and cook a new squash,
Alyce 

Trading Granola for Eggs – My Urban Barter Tale

Trading Granola for Eggs – My Urban Barter Tale

I was on the road a couple of weeks ago and checking my computer when my I-Spy Radar saw an email with a subject line that had something to do with too many fresh eggs and trading cookies for them.  I try and stay off email a lot when I’m away seeing my kids or on vacation, but I couldn’t NOT look at this one.  Backyard eggs just hook me right in.  And, of course, cookies fall right out of my oven.

My siblings and I grew up with fresh eggs; my dad either traded produce for them or shelled out a little cash to his Swedish farmer friend Munson.  When our  parents retired and took it (ha!) easy on a little “hobby” farm,  they had their own chickens and, hence, their own eggs, to say nothing of a garden that produced tomatoes the likes of which I’ve never again tasted.  When Dave and I visited as newlyweds, we had fresh eggs (fried in bacon or sausage grease) every morning early.  Why would you want anything else?  And why not at 6am?  There, of course, were also biscuits.  With sour cream and honey or molasses.  Unending pots of coffee.

To say that  mass-produced eggs pale in comparison is an apt description.  Don’t you love the looks of this egg produced by one of Cathy’s ladies?

(Read my post about this salsa here.)

So, anyway,  I missed great eggs for years.  I really missed them because I just love eggs.  I go through phrases where sure that the SB diet will take off my well-fed excess, I eat them daily.  Then I begin to worry about the cholesterol and switch back to egg whites.  Whichever, I always eat vegetables for breakfast, too.  (Alternately, I’ll eat yogurt and fresh fruit for weeks on end–with my homemade low-fat granola.)  But back to the email:  as soon as I could arrange it,  I was ready to start trading whatever I had for those eggs

In St. Paul, you can now raise chickens in your own back yard.  Right in the city.  Now I don’t have much space, and I’m only fond of eggs, not chickens, so I’m not putting up a coop back there in place of my postage stamp patio.  But I’m happy to oblige my friend Cathy and her family, who are the ones suffering from the overage.  Her “ladies” live in the yard, eat well, exercise daily, and are nearly pets who produce things like this:

 Here’s a closer up pic so maybe you can see the beautiful colors.  The whites are nearly blue:

One week, I traded some oatmeal chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin cookies:

This week I made granola for Dave, so just made a bigger batch and traded that.

It’s lovely with milk, better with plain Greek yogurt and a drizzle of honey, and best with homemade ricotta and fresh fruit. Naturally, you can scoop up a little and eat it out of hand.  (I do recommend leaving a scoop or spoon in the jar as you’re keeping this granola awhile.)  Your choice.   Whatever you do, I hope you find someone with whom to trade it so that you can eat eggs like I’m eating!  Thanks, ladies.

alyce’s low-fat granola with apricots, currants, and cherries
based on David Lebovitz’  recipe, which he says was based on Nigella Lawson’s!

  • 5 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 2t cinnamon
  • 2t ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves, optional
  • 1t kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups each: chopped walnuts and almonds
  • 1/2 cup each: pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and plain sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup each: chopped dried apricots, cherries, and currants or raisins
  • 1/3 cup each: real maple syrup and honey  (can use all honey)
  • 3/4 c applesauce 
  • 2T olive oil

Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees F.

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl or soup pot.  (oats through seeds)  Meantime, heat liquid ingredients over low heat, stirring, in a small sauce pan until just warm and well-combined. (syrup, honey, applesauce, and oil).  Pour liquid ingredients over dry and mix well for a few minutes.  Pour onto two or three large, rimmed baking sheets and bake 50-60 minutes until dry, golden, and crispy, stirring 3-4 times during the baking time.  Store in a tightly-sealed container for up to a month.  (This granola will not keep well in a plastic bag.)

Cook’s Notes:

1.  I thought I’d share the differences between my granola and David Lebovitz’–his included 3/4 cup brown sugar (I skipped that) and had no fruit at all (I like fruit).  I also added ground cloves, which are optional.  But I definitely borrowed the idea of applesauce in place of the large amount oil usually used in granola and part of the reason it’s so caloric.  This is very low fat, crispy, tasty, and…  well, you’ll like it.

If you’ve never visited the magical David Lebovitz blog,  please do yourself a favor and make the trip today.  David is an American pastry chef living in Paris who always has a great story to tell—  The food’s lovely, too, but it’s the stories that bring me back again and again.  FYI–David also does things like Paris Chocolate Tours if you ever get to the City of Light.  If you want more info, check the blog or ask David yourself in the comment section of his blog.

2.  Changing it up:  The number of additions (and the size of their amounts), to the oats is rather flexible., as are the spices.   If you only have a few nuts and some raisins, for instance, you can still make this granola.  Or if you have only apricots and almonds…you can still make this granola.  Only have cinnamon?  Use 3 teaspoon cinnamon then.  See?   Do keep the main ingredients and proportions intact:  oats, honey, maple syrup, applesauce, and oil.

two-dog kitchen and a bit of travel

Mother Gabriela

Our lilacs through the piano window.  Two views–above and below.

Above: Tasting Sean’s brews in Colorado.  Our son’s on his way to becoming a master brewer.  Woo hoo!

Above:  In Princeton–a facade saved, ready for its new building to be built behind.  Meantime, you can see the sky!

My Easter cake…will blog soon.  Great for spring!

Dogwood blossom in Princeton

 With Dave and Emily eating lunch in the sunshine in the West Village

                                                  At The Spotted Pig in NYC,  April Bloomfield’s restaurant.
                                                        Couldn’t get in.  🙁

Dappled light –West Village/NYC (above)

Gorgeous window boxes in downtown Princeton (above)

Princeton spring–Dogwoods (above)

“Yes, we did,”  said Gab and Tuck

Sing a new song,
Alyce