Caramelized Butternut Squash Cubes

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I’m a fan of simplicity and this autumn recipe really couldn’t be any easier…
A few days ago, my boss arrived to the office with a box full of assorted squash that she had picked from her garden. She admitted neglecting the overgrown weeds in and around the produce and to her surprise, had found a plethora of ripe, fresh squash that she couldn’t possibly eat on her own. She placed the box on the reception desk with a note encouraging employees to take whatever we wanted. I was elated and quickly rummaged through the produce looking for the best of the bunch.
I guess the hardest part of this recipe is getting the thick skin off of the flesh. Carefully use a knife to trim away the light colored skin keeping the cut side of the squash flat against the cutting surface. Scoop out the seeds and cube the firm flesh. In a short while, get ready for a fantastic side dish!

Caramelized Butternut Squash Cubes

3 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons brown sugar, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, toss cubed squash and olive oil until well coated. Arrange squash on an 11X17″ baking pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown and slightly caramelized.
Remove from oven and sprinkle evenly with brown sugar; return to the oven, continue baking for 5-7 minutes or until fork tender.

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Refreshing Strawberry Spinach Salad

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This is one of my favorite salads. I usually make it during the late spring months when we have loads of strawberries ripe for the picking. However, a couple of weeks ago, I went to a holiday party and brought this salad along. I knew there would be lots of rich desserts, heavy side dishes, and sweet holiday beverages so I wanted to bring along something light and flavorful. The green and red of the spinach and strawberry mix certainly made the salad look festive. Surprisingly, the strawberries were sweet and juicy. Our grocer’s winter berry selection is usually flavorless and strawberries often have a firm, rock-like texture. I expected to have to sweeten up the berries with a small sprinkle of sugar before adding them to the salad. To my surprise, they were perfect in every way. I was also pleased that I didn’t have to part with a small fortune when purchasing the berries. They were quite reasonably priced so I made sure to buy a load of them.
For a dramatic presentation, I often mix the salad in a clear, deep bowl to show off the beautiful colors within the mix. The deep green of the spinach, and rosy red of the strawberries glisten under the glaze of dressing. Flecks of black and beige (from the addition of poppy and sesame seeds) make the salad look quite appetizing.
While the winter temperatures are down-right bone chilling and the snow continues to fall, I long for the warm sunny days of spring and summer when fresh produce is abundant and flavorful summer salads are a welcome part of the everyday meal.

Strawberry and Spinach Salad

1 large bag, pre-packaged baby spinach, stems removed
4 cups fresh strawberries, sliced
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 tablespoon poppy seeds

In a large bowl, toss together the spinach and strawberries. In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, sugar, paprika, sesame seeds, and poppy seeds. Just before serving, pour over the salad and toss to coat.

A good trick when traveling with this salad:
Slice the strawberries and place them at the bottom of the bowl. Then, lightly add clean, prepped spinach and cover the bowl with clear plastic wrap. Carry the dressing in a jelly jar or lidded plastic container. After reaching your destination, give the salad a toss and add the dressing, distributing everything evenly.

Roasted Smashed Potatoes

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This is a fancy potato recipe that serves as a quick and easy side dish for beef, chicken, or pork. Look for small red potatoes about 1 1/2- 2″ in diameter for best results. I often use multi-colored fingerlings as well. This cooking method produces a crispy outer skin yet leaves a soft tender center in the bite-sized potatoes. Season them with your favorite herbs and spices. I have served them with breakfast, along side bacon and eggs. And they are equally delicious served along side a sirloin steak or chicken breast with a green vegetable side dish.

Roasted Smashed Potatoes

2 pounds small red potatoes
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper to taste

Place washed potatoes in a large pot and cover completely with water. Season with kosher salt and bring to a boil; simmer until potatoes are tender when knife is inserted in the center. Drain.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Drizzle 3 tablespoons oil over potatoes and roll to coat. Space potatoes evenly on a baking sheet. With the bottom of a measuring cup, press down evenly on each potato, flattening potatoes to about 1/3 to 1/2″ thick. Sprinkle with rosemary leaves and garlic powder. Season generously with salt and pepper; drizzle evenly with remaining 3 tablespoons oil. Roast potatoes on top rack 10 minutes. Transfer baking sheet to bottom rack and continue to roast until potatoes are well browned, about 20-25 minutes longer. Serve immediately.

Autumn Squash and Apple Bake

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This picture doesn’t do justice to the sweet, flavorful taste of this side dish. Cubed butternut squash and apples with a sprinkling of dried cranberries make this perfect for any fall feast.
Yesterday, I drove to a local orchard to pick up some fruits and vegetables for the week. As I got closer to the orchard, the traffic got heavy and came to a stand still. I thought that there might have been an accident but as my car crawled closer to my destination, I realized the back up was due to the amount of visitors headed to the orchard. As much as I would have liked to go in and get my produce, I had to drive on by because there wasn’t a parking space to be had in both of their spacious parking lots. While I was sad to have missed a visit, I was really happy for the orchard owners to have such a booming business! I think I will try to make my way back during the week when traffic is a little less hectic.
Meanwhile, I drove further down the road to pick up some butternut squash and apples to make a great new side dish that I recently discovered. This is sweet, tender, and nutritious. I added a few pecans for a bit of added crunch.

Autumn Squash and Apple Bake

1/4 cup margarine, melted
1 package butternut squash, cubed. (found in the produce section)
1 medium apple, cubed
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1/2 cup pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Spray a 11×13″ baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Combine margarine with all ingredients and pour into prepared baking dish. Season with salt, if desired. Cover and bake 30 minutes. Remove cover and bake an additional 15 minutes or until squash is tender.

Grilled Corn on the Cob

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Ok…it’s grilling season and the Indiana corn is ripe for the picking. As blueberry season winds down…fresh vegetables are truly showing off their colors. This year, we planted plenty of tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, herbs, peppers, cauliflower and squash. Our property seems to be surrounded by acres and acres of beautiful golden corn. Farmers in the area often put a table out at the end of their driveway with a load of fresh picked corn. Next to the corn sits a coffee can where neighbors and others passing by can leave their money to pay for their corn purchase.
This recipe is surprisingly tasty. The corn in Indiana is super sweet so the flavorful herbs contrast the sweetness quite well. While I often steam or boil corn on the cob…this recipe is a nice change of pace.

Grilled Corn on the Cob

6 ears of corn, husked and cleaned
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
A pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 cup butter, softened

Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. In a medium bowl, mix together the chili powder, oregano, onion powder, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Mix the softened butter into the dry ingredients. Brush this mixture on each ear of corn. Wrap each ear tightly in aluminum foil so melted butter does not leak out during cooking.
Place wrapped corn on the preheated grill. Grill for 20 to 30 minutes turning corn several times during cooking.

Garden Fresh Veggie Pizza

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This is surely one of my family’s favorite snacks. As we planted vegetables and herbs this weekend, it made me think of this colorful, nutrition-packed pizza. Most of you have probably seen a variation of this recipe in cookbooks or online… this is the way I have been making it for years. When everyone pitches in to mix the topping and chop the vegetables, this one is a snap to put together. I often cut a few leftover slices to fit into lunchbox containers for the girls. What a great way to get a variety of fresh vegetables on the plate!

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Garden Fresh Veggie Pizza

2 (8 ounce) packages refrigerated crescent rolls
1 cup lite mayonnaise
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (1 ounce) package ranch dressing mix
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped (any color)
1 1/2 cups fresh broccoli, chopped
1 medium tomato, diced
1/2 cup cucumber, diced
1 carrot, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a jellyroll pan with non-stick cooking spray. Pat crescent roll sheet into a jellyroll pan, pinching seams to close any holes. Bake for 10 minutes, let cool.
In a mixing bowl, combine mayonnaise, cream cheese, ranch dip mix. Spread this mixture on top of the cooled crust. Arrange all of the prepared fresh vegetables on top of the creamed mixture. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled. Cut into squares and serve.

Perfect Potato Salad

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Growing up in a large family, our meals were always quite simple. My mother wasn’t one to prepare complicated recipes. Opening a bag of frozen peas, boiling potatoes, and throwing meat in the oven, was about as complicated as she would get when preparing dinner. I first tasted potato salad at my in-law’s house and quickly realized that it was one of my husband’s favorite side dishes. After trying several recipes, this one has become a family favorite. Boiling the potatoes and eggs can take a bit of time, but this basic recipe is pretty simple to assemble in no time at all.

Perfect Potato Salad

5 potatoes, peeled and diced
3 eggs
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup sweet pickle relish
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add potatoes and cook until tender but still firm, about 15 minutes; drain. Place eggs in a small saucepan; cover with cold water. Cover saucepan and bring water to a rolling boil for 1 minute; remove from heat, and let eggs stand in boiled water for 10 to 12 minutes. Drain water, peel and chop eggs.
In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, eggs, celery, onion, relish. Mix together mayonnaise, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Pour over potato mixture to combine. Refrigerate until ready to serve.