Meatless Monday – Roasted Butternut Squash Salad

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Salads in winter must have a hearty element to them or they just don’t work for me, especially in cold, wet weather, like now.  This one has roasted butternut squash, toasted pecans, dried cranberries and salty feta over a bed of dark leafy greens, drizzled with a rich balsamic vinaigrette.  Yum! Best of all it’s simple, just a few delicious ingredients and good for you. Butternut squash is my favorite of the hard winter squashes and still in season.  Butternut squash has a natural sweetness that really shines when brushed with olive oil and roasted, and it is loaded with vitamins and minerals, as evidenced by it’s brilliant orange color.
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This salad is easy to make except for the peeling and cutting of the butternut squash  It is not that really that hard to peel but if you are looking for a shortcut, many supermarkets offer it already pre-cut into cubes.  Go for it if you need a big time saver!  This recipe calls for 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of cut up squash (medium butternut).  Supermarket packages of cut up squash are usually 16 to 18 ounces, which is equal to a small squash but totally adequate for this salad. It will just be slightly smaller.  To make this salad more hearty, you can add cooked barley or quinoa.  A layer of black or green lentils cooked al dente would be a good addition too.
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I used a sprinkling of feta cheese which works well with its salty flavor and crumbly texture.  Goat cheese would work well here too, as well as some of their vegan counterparts.  If you’re not a dried cranberry fan, walk on the wild side with dried blueberries or cherries.  Best of all is the vinaigrette with the balsamic reduction.  It’s rich and really complements the other ingredients, however, the ingredients do combine to a pretty delicious vinaigrette without the fuss of reducing the sauce.
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ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH SALAD
  • 1 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 3/4-inch cubes (about 3 cups)
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6-8 cups fresh greens (baby kale, spinach, arugula, etc)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup pecans, toasted or candied
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup feta or goat cheese, crumbled (optional)
Vinaigrette:
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • salt and pepper, to taste

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  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spread butternut squash pieces into a single layer on an oiled baking sheet. Drizzle or spray with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. You can line baking sheet with parchment paper instead of oil for easy clean up.

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  • Roast for 20-25 minutes, turning a few times, until squash is tender.

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  • While the squash is cooking, whisk together all the vinaigrette ingredients and set aside.  Or, if you want a thicker dressing, stir the vinegar and honey in small saucepan over medium heat until reduced by about half (recommended).  Let cool slightly and add the remaining ingredients.  Set aside.

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  • Thinly slice red onions and chop salad greens and add to large bowl or platter

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  • Allow squash to cool and then add to salad greens

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  • Top with dried cranberries, pecans and crumbled feta. Drizzle with vinaigrette.

 

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Roasted Butternut Squash Salad

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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  • 1 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 3/4-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6-8 cups fresh greens (baby kale, spinach, arugula, etc)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup pecans, toasted or candied
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled (optional)
Vinaigrette:
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spread butternut squash pieces into a single layer on an oiled baking sheet. Drizzle or spray with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. You can line baking sheet with parchment paper instead of oil for easy clean up.
  • Roast for 20-25 minutes, turning a few times, until squash is tender.
  • While the squash is cooking, whisk together all the vinaigrette ingredients and set aside.
  • Thinly slice red onions and chop salad greens and add to large bowl or platter
  • Allow squash to cool and then add to salad greens
  • Top with dried cranberries, pecans and crumbled feta. Drizzle with vinaigrette.
TIPS: This salad is easy to make except for the peeling and cutting of the butternut squash  An easy shortcut is to buy pre-cut squash which is a great timesaver but a bit more expensive.  To make this salad more hearty, you can add cooked barley or quinoa.

Meatless Monday – Pasta Fazool (Vegan)

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Cold and rainy (or snowy) days call for hearty and warm foods that warm you up from the inside out.  This savory pasta dish, which is a twist on an Italian favorite, Pasta Fazool, was a winner with my meat eating men.  Picture penne pasta and lentils swimming in a delicious hot broth, flavored with tomatoes, garlic, onions and the zing of red pepper flakes. I served each bowl with a pinch of parmesan and chopped parsley.  Plus its a One Pot Meal!

IMG_20190213_185034This is technically not Pasta Fazool, or pasta e fagiole, which means pasta with beans.  Lentils are actually a legume not a bean, so the technical name would be Pasta e Lenticchie which is way less fun to say and why I call it a twist on a classic.  You can make it more traditionally by using two cans of white beans, drained and added in place of the lentils, if you wish.  Both are delicious options.  Pasta Fazool is usually more soupy than your typical plate of pasta but it can be made as wet or dry as you wish.  To make it more of a soup, just add more water when you add the pasta or even more before serving if too much liquid has evaporated.  If you are using broth to start, adding more water shouldn’t diminish the flavor.

img_20190213_175453.jpgThe parmesan cheese is optional as a topping but I want to share a new vegan parmesan cheese that I find is just as good as the real thing.  I found myself eating slices of it while cooking.  I mean someone had to taste it. 🙂  This Just Like Parmesan by Violife contains no dairy, soy, gluten, lactose or nut products.  So what is it made from?  Well, mostly a combination of potato and rice starch, rice protein, coconut oil and sea salt, including Vitamin B12.  As Violife says, “Delizioso”!

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PASTA FAZOOL

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1/4 -3/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup brown lentils, rinsed
1 can diced or crushed tomatoes
1 tsp fresh thyme
4 cups vegetable broth or water
8 ounces pasta (such as ziti or penne)
1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley, chopped (optional)
parmesan cheese, grated (optional) *Check out Violife Vegan Soy*

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  •  In a large saucepan or dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and some of the red pepper flakes, and cook, stirring often until soft and transluscent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.

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  • Add the tomatoes, thyme and broth and bring to a boil. Taste and add salt and pepper and more red pepper flakes, to taste.

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  • Add the lentils, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer with the lid slightly ajar, until the lentils are almost tender, 20 minutes.

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  • Increase heat to medium and add one or two cups of water along with the pasta and simmer, uncovered, stirring often so that the pasta doesn’t stick to the bottom, until the pasta is al dente, 10 to 12 minutes. Add water if necessary. The end result should be a bit soupy, unless you prefer it more pasta-like.

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  • Divide the pasta among serving bowls and garnish with the parsley and parmesan, if desired.
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Pasta Fazool

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1/4 -3/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup brown lentils, rinsed
1 can diced or crushed tomatoes
1 tsp fresh thyme
4 cups vegetable broth or water
8 ounces pasta (such as ziti or penne)
1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley, chopped (optional)
parmesan cheese, grated (optional)

  •  In a large saucepan or dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and some of the red pepper flakes, and cook, stirring often until soft but not brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  • Add tomatoes, thyme and broth and bring to a boil. Taste and add salt and pepper and more red pepper flakes, to taste.
  • Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer with the lid slightly ajar, until the lentils are almost tender, 20 minutes.
  • Increase heat to medium and add one or two cups of water along with the pasta and simmer, uncovered, stirring often so that the pasta doesn’t stick to the bottom, until the pasta is al dente, 10 to 12 minutes. Add water if necessary. The end result should be a bit soupy.
  • Divide the pasta among serving bowls and garnish with the parsley and parmesan.

Meatless Monday – Vegetable Paella (Vegan)

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Paella is a beautiful dish worthy of a party or gathering.  This one is loaded with fresh veggies instead of traditional Spanish ingredients, usually a combination of meats and seafood.  My veggie recipe retains the usual flavors, smoked paprica, saffron and Spanish rice but in lieu of the meats, I added artichoke, eggplant, mushrooms and fennel, and topped with roasted red peppers and capers.  Simply Delicious!

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Paella is not as hard as it’s reputation leads us to believe.  Its not like risotto which has to be constantly stirred and fussed over.  In fact, paella should be minimally disturbed after the first few minutes and if you have done it correctly, a golden crust will form on the bottom, called the socarrat, from the Spanish word “socarrar,” which means “to toast lightly,”. Once the paella is done, it can sit covered off the heat and wait until you’re ready to serve.  I used several canned items, partially as a shortcut and because some things are not in season right now.  I used fresh fennel and trumpet mushrooms (because they are available now) and fresh eggplant. I also used jarred capers, roasted red peppers and canned baby artichokes which are already fairly soft, so I added them in near the end.

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I love this combination of textures and flavors.  It turned out quite pretty and colorful.  You can substitute any vegetables that you like, just keep in mind how long they need to cook and plan accordingly.  I also used a vegan chorizo that I have had good luck with recently.  It’s made from vital wheat gluten so not gluten free but pretty tasty and combines nicely with the saffron and smoked paprika.  This ingredient is optional though.  I would like the dish either way. Some people don’t enjoy substitute meats for a variety of reasons but I like to promote those companies who are making their way into the vegan food industry. The more good products available, the better they get and the less meat people will eat.  Win win!

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TIPS:  I have a giant paella pan which was relatively inexpensive but for this recipe, I used a 12 inch cast iron pan.  It was fairly full but worked fine for the quantities.  You could use a pan a couple of inches larger and it should turn out well.  Don’t be tempted to use aromatic rices like jasmine or basmati as they don’t soak up the flavors properly and some of the long grained rices don’t have the proper texture.

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VEGETABLE PAELLA

  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 oz vegan chorizo (optional)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
  • 1 large bulb fennel, sliced
  • 14 oz can baby artichokes (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 large Japanese eggplant, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup mushrooms (crimini, shitake or trumpet)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 1/4 cups bomba, arborio or valencia rice
  • 1-2 Tbsn capers, drained
  • 1 roasted, marinated red pepper, cut into strips
  • fresh parsley or thyme for garnish (optional)

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Vegetable Paella

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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VEGETABLE PAELLA

  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 oz vegan chorizo (optional)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
  • 1 large bulb fennel, sliced
  • 14 oz can baby artichokes (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 large Japanese eggplant, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup mushrooms (crimini, shitake or trumpet)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 1/4 cups arborio or valencia rice
  • 1-2 Tbsn capers, drained
  • 1 roasted, marinated red pepper, cut into strips
  • fresh parsley or thyme for garnish (optional)