Butternut Squash Quesadilla

This squash is shocked that I would steal a little work time to play around with the camera.

It was a beautiful spring day (finally) and spending another minute in my windowless home-office surrounded by decidedly non-foodie and non-spring-y things wasn’t doing it for me. Heading upstairs and poking around, I found butternut squash, spinach and some tortillas that needed using up. Voilà, this quesadilla was born.

You can’t tell me that this squash isn’t a little reminiscent of Wallace….though it would be more so with some googly eyes.  (Check out this link for a LOL).

So this is the quick version of this quesadilla. I can already think of ways to improve it but I’ll leave that for another day. A speedier version can be had using leftover butternut squash, or bag-o-squash. I had to cook mine.



Butternut Squash Quesadilla

With apologies to those who like formal recipes, this was pretty free form. I cut my squash in half, scooped out the seeds, sprinkled with seasoned salt (see pic of my fave one below) and put it in the microwave for about 5 minutes on high. Then scooped out a couple of tablespoons worth and spread it on a tortilla. A squeeze of lime would probably be good, though I didn’t have a lime to do that.

Add some spinach leaves, thinly sliced shallots, clumps of goat cheese, fold the tortilla and place it in a non-stick skillet on med heat.  Flip when it gets brown and toasty.  Cut into sections, drizzle with crema. Enjoy!

Buttermilk Crema

1/2 cup sour cream
salt and pepper

In a measuring cup whisk together sour cream with enough buttermilk to thin it to a pouring consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

This is my favourite seasoned salt. I use it for everything. Roasting vegetables, potatoes, seasoning a roast or chicken….I found it in the salt section of my grocery store. You can find it on Amazon too. It’s worth the splurge.

Hot Salad

Hot salad. Doesn’t that sound sexy? All right, I’m a geek. I guess you could just called it sautéed vegetables but that sounds so boring…and it also sounds like a side dish. This is a one dish meal. And it made a perfect lunch the other day. My inspiration is a local restaurant called 50 North where they make this wonderful Grilled Steak Salad that I strove to recreate at home. Of course, by the time I got around to making it at home, I couldn’t recall exactly what went into it, except that it had small diced vegetables and potatoes, some sautéed or braised greens, grilled steak on top and a cherry gastrique (a thick sauce made from a reduction of wine or vinegar, sugar, and fruit– I had to look that up…didn’t know what a gastrique was. Now that I know, I need to make it!)

What’s great about this salad is that it’s filling with the potatoes added (and steak if you added that too…I would have, but was working with what I had on hand at the time), but still light. I used onion, zucchini and asparagus, but many others would be great…rainbow carrots, beets, parsnip, snow peas…. The vegetables and potato are finely diced then sautéed briefly.

The pan is deglazed with some wine (because cooking is always better with wine, right?), the greens added along with broth and cooked until they are wilted and everything is tender.

I threw in some dried cranberries for the sweetness the gastrique would have provided. Voilà . Super easy.

Hot Salad
inspired by Grilled Steak Salad at 50 North

3 cups finely diced vegetables (zucchini, carrot, asparagus, beet, snow peas…whatever)
3-4 cups fresh baby spinach (or swiss chard or kale*)
1 cup finely diced new potato
1/2 cup finely diced red onion or shallot
1/3 cup dry white wine
2/3 cup broth
1/2 cup dried cranberries
salt and pepper to taste

*if using kale, chop roughly with a knife into small pieces and then scrunch it up in your hands to bruise it a bit before cooking.

Sauté the vegetables and potato in butter/oil/both for a few minutes on medium-high, until very bright in colour. If using asparagus, just do the stalks for now, save the tips to add later.

Deglaze with the wine and let it sizzle for a couple of minutes, toss in the cranberries and the asparagus tips if using, give a good grind pepper and a sprinkle of coarse salt. Then pile on the spinach or chard and pour the broth over the whole thing. Cover until greens start to wilt. Stir to combine and let bubble until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Serve hot on its own or with sliced grilled steak over top.

Penne with Mushrooms and Spinach

Once again the day got away from me and I found myself at 5:30pm staring into the fridge trying to figure out what to make for dinner but didn’t really feel like cooking. Sigh. But instead of turning to old standbys grilled cheese or soup and toast I managed to pull together a pretty decent pasta dish without a huge amount of effort.  Don’t get me wrong, we love grilled cheese and Pacific Natural soups are a staple in our house (Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato is awesome) but I really wanted pasta and also had this bag of mushrooms that needed to be used up.

I figured I could make a similar wine-y broth to the farfalle I made recently.

This came together in about 20 minutes thanks to bag o’ mushrooms (sliced) and bag o’ spinach. The most work was slicing the shallots. And it was really yummy, with a deep mushroom flavour.

To make it Evan-friendly, because he would balk at a bowl of pasta with all that ‘stuff’ in it,

I scooped out some penne that had been simmering in the veggies and broth and added some grated parmesan so he’d get all the flavour without the ‘bits’. I figure, it’s the same meal, just adjusted a bit, which I’m okay with. I mean, we can avoid being too accommodating but still be considerate of his finicky palate, right? Everybody wins. Then I put some of the braised veg on the side, which he didn’t try, but that’s ok.

Penne with Mushrooms and Spinach

Truth be told, I didn’t measure anything when I made this so you may want to add more or less liquid to deglaze and braise depending on the amount of mushrooms and spinach you use. The one third – two third ratio of wine to broth works well and just add more if 1 cup total volume is not broth-y enough. Remember that the mushrooms give off a lot of liquid too though.

1 8 oz bag sliced crimini mushrooms (roughly 1/2 lb sliced)
1 6 oz bag baby spinach
1 large shallot, sliced (about 3/4 cup)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup dry white wine
2/3 cup chicken or vegetable stock
fresh parmesan cheese, finely grated
salt and pepper to taste
cream to taste (optional)
Pasta (we used Trader Joe’s whole wheat penne)

In a large skillet on med-high, saute mushrooms and shallots in a bit of butter and olive oil, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Deglaze by adding the wine and broth, then dump in the spinach, a good grind of pepper and salt (to taste), then cover and reduce heat to simmer for 7-8 minutes.

When spinach is very wilted, stir to combine and add pasta to the skillet…more or less depending on the pasta to veg ratio you like. Add a drizzle of cream if you want, and let it simmer a bit longer until some of the liquid reduces. Stir in 1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan and serve immediately.