Roasted Butternut Squash

This is my new side dish of choice.  I am currently in LOVE with Butternut Squash!  It takes all the self control I have to only eat my correct portion size.  I have even considered eating it for breakfast . . . I seriously love it that much.  If you are a squash hater, well . . . it might be hard for us to be friends right now.  Ha, ha!

This is one of my most favorite ways to cook it.  It cooks up in 30 minutes, is easy to prep, and easy to divide into correct portion sizes once it’s cooked.  Besides that, the leftovers can be used in a some very yummy ways.  I will be sharing some of those ways with you in future posts!  Can you hardly wait?  I can’t!

Roasted Butternut Squash

1 medium butternut squash (about 2 pounds) peeled,
seeded and cut into ½-inch cubes
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Adjust an oven rack to the upper middle position and heat the oven to 450 degrees.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper (or use a Silpat liner if you have one).  Toss the squash with oil, salt, and pepper and spread out over the prepared baking sheet.  Roast the squash until tender and golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Serves 3 (about a total of 3 cups of butternut cubes).

Nutritional Information (Per Serving = 1 Cup of Cubes)
Calories:  112
Protein:  1.8g
Carbs:  21.5g
Fat:  3.7g
Fiber:  6g
Sugars:  0g

Broiled Asparagus with Tomato-Basil Vinaigrette

Here is a delicious vegetable side dish for all of you asparagus lovers!  It cooks up in a flash and it full of flavor.  I love the broil method because it still leaves the asparagus slightly crisp, but it really helps to enhance the flavor.  You can definitely just broil it and leave it as is (which is what I do a large majority of the time).  But . . . if you’re looking for something a little more special or to add a little more variety to your veggie choice, top it with this yummy vinaigrette!  The beauty of this vinaigrette is that it is a light vinaigrette, but also a little thicker so it clings to the asparagus fantastically.  (The vinaigrette is also pretty good on top of a salad.  I tried it and found it pretty pleasing.)  I loved the freshness of this dish all around and will probably continue to eat it this way until my Costco-size bag of asparagus is gone.

Broiled Asparagus with Tomato-Basil Vinaigrette
Adapted from “The America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook”

1 finely chopped plum tomato
1 tablespoon minced red onion
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
salt & pepper, to taste

(Makes approximately 9 tablespoons dressing.)

1 bunch asparagus (about 1 pound), tough ends trimmed
(about 30 spears)
1 ½ teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
salt & pepper, to taste

FOR THE VINAIGRETTE:  Combine all ingredients in a bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste.  If you have one, the food processor works wonders here.  Just put everything in the food processor to achieve a fabulous consistency and texture.

FOR THE ASPARAGUS:  Position an oven rack 6 inches from the broiler element and heat the broiler.  Toss the asparagus with the oil, salt, and pepper and arrange in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet.  Broil the asparagus until tender and lightly browned, 6 to 10 minutes, shaking the pan halfway through to turn the spears.

Transfer the asparagus to a platter, spoon 3 tablespoons of the dressing over the top, and serve.

Serves 5.

Nutritional Information for Asparagus & Vinaigrette
(Per Serving = 7 Spears)
Calories:  45.5
Protein:  2.3g
Carbs:  5.3g
Fat:  2.7g (0.4g = Sat.)
Fiber:  2.1g
Sugars:  0.4g

Nutritional Information for Vinaigrette Only
(Per Serving = 1 Tablespoon)
Calories:  18
Protein:  0.2g
Carbs:  0.9g
Fat:  1.6g (0.2g = Sat.)
Fiber:  0.2g
Sugars:  0.6g

Basic Pesto

Once in a while I love to change my sauce option up and have a little pesto.  I grow my own basil, so this is a natural sauce to make with it since Pesto is primarily made with basil.  Pesto sauce is easy because you basically just combine basil, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, garlic, and olive oil together.  The amounts of each don’t ever have to be EXACT, but I’ve figured out a combination of amounts that I like so I’m passing them on to you.

You’ll see that the calories seem a bit high for a vegetable-based sauce.  This is because most of the calories within the sauce some from the olive oil.  Lucky for us, olive oil is a healthy fat.  With that being said, it is still wise to watch the amount we eat.  The calories add up fast when we’re dealing with fats and healthy fats are no exception to the calorie-counting rules.

I love to put this sauce over pasta, on sandwiches, and even on pizza.  Stay tuned for my next recipe post.  I’ll be using this delicious sauce in it!  YUM!

Basic Pesto

3 cups packed fresh basil leaves
2-4 cloves garlic
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Combine basil, Parmesan cheese, nuts, salt, and lemon juice in a food processor or blender.  Blend until finely chopped.  While processing, slowly add oil until it is well incorporated and a smooth paste develops.

Serves 16 (Makes approximately 2 cups of sauce).

Nutritional Information (Per Serving = 2 Tablespoons)
Calories:  199
Protein:  2.4g
Carbs:  2g
Fat:  21.1g
Fiber:  0.9g

Simple Tomato Sauce

If you haven’t ever made your own tomato sauce or pasta sauce because you’ve been afraid to do so, now’s the time to try.  It REALLY is super easy and a lot more affordable than buying it already made.  The beauty of making your own is that you know what EXACTLY goes into it and you can control the spiciness and flavor of it.

This sauce here is super simple (thus, the name!), and you can add any kind of Italian herb to it that you want.  I love garlic and basil, so that’s what I tend to stick with.  However, I’m sure Oregano would be awesome in it too!

Whatever you do, you should make this simple sauce ASAP.  It goes great on pasta and anything else you might use a tomato sauce with.  Stay tuned . . . tomorrow I have a PERFECT use for it!

Simple Tomato Sauce
Recipe Source:  The America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook

1 (28-oz.) can diced tomatoes
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
salt and pepper (to taste)

Pulse the tomatoes with their juice in a food processor until mostly smooth, about 10-14 pulses.  Cook the garlic, tomato paste, oil, and red pepper flakes in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the tomato paste begins to brown, about 2 minutes.  Stir in the processed tomatoes and cook until the sauce is thickened and measures 2 cups, about 20 minutes.  Off the heat, stir in the basil and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Makes about 2 cups.  Serves 6.

Nutritional Information (Per Serving = 1/3 Cup)
Calories:  40
Protein:  1g
Carbs:  5g
Fat:  1g (0g = Sat.)
Fiber:  1g

Fresh Garden Salsa

Since I’m still using my garden tomatoes, I’ll throw another tomato post your way.  This is a delicious garden salsa recipe.  I love the fact that I can go out to my garden, pick my peppers and tomatoes, and then have fresh salsa 10 minutes later.  There are a lot of ways to make fresh salsa.  You basically want to have a mixture of peppers, onions, and tomatoes.  Depending on your liking, the amounts you use of these ingredients can widely vary AND you can easily add other spices and flavorings to alter the taste to your personal preference.  I am a salsa LOVER!  I rarely taste a salsa that I do not like.  With this particular recipe you’ll see that I’ve added some cumin for a smokier flavor, some cayenne pepper for additional heat, and cilantro for a kick of freshness.  Trust me . . . if you just want a traditional garden salsa without any extra spices or heat, leave them out and that’s what you’ll have.  It’s fantastic!  I love to whip this up and eat it with baked corn tortilla chips (recipe/method to come).

Fresh Garden Salsa
Mimi Original

2 fresh jalapeno peppers, seeded and very coarsely chopped
1 fresh Anaheim pepper, seeded and very coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, halved
4 large vine-ripened tomatoes
1 (14.5 0z.) can diced tomatoes (drained or not, depending on how much liquid you want in your salsa)
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 tbsp. cumin (1.5 tsp.)
1/2 sweet yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
juice of one lime

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the jalapenos, Anaheim, and garlic.  Process until finely chopped.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add all other ingredients to the food processor.  Pulse in very brief pulses until the vegetables have reached the size you desire (it does not take many pulses so don’t overdo it).  Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving to allow the flavors to blend.

Serves 8.

Nutritional Information (Per Serving = 1/2 Cup)
Calories:  32.8
Protein:  1.4g
Carbs:  7.5g
Fat:  0g
Fiber:  1.8g
Sugars:  3.9g

Roasted Sweet Cherry Tomatoes

Okay folks!  Do you still have tomatoes producing out of your garden like crazy?  I do and this is one of my most favorite things to make with my cherry tomatoes.  If I’m being honest, my most favorite way to eat our cherry tomatoes is straight off the vine.  But, this recipe comes in at a close second.  Slow roasting these really brings out the flavor.  And, what makes these go beyond greatness is the fact that you roast them in a little onion/shallot, olive oil, garlic, a tiny bit of sugar to help bring out their sweetness, some red pepper flakes for a slight kick, and then balsamic vinegar!  I tell you what, these make a beautiful side dish and it’ll help you use up those cherry tomatoes that seem to never stop producing.  And, if you’re in the mood to make these shine as the main course . . . well, then cook up some pasta and toss it with these.  I do that on occasion, adding grilled chicken, fresh basil, and a little Parmesan cheese.  Either way, I cannot possibly see how you could be disappointed.

Roasted Sweet Cherry Tomatoes
Recipe Source:  Adapted slightly from “The America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook”

3 cups cherry tomatoes (about 1 pound), halved
1/2  shallot, halved and sliced thin (or 1 T. red onion, diced)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-1/2  teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon sugar
pinch of red pepper flakes
salt and pepper, to taste

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Toss the tomatoes with the shallot, oil, vinegar, garlic, sugar, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper in a bowl.

Spread the tomatoes out over a rimmed baking sheet.  Roast until the tomato skins have shriveled slightly but the tomatoes still retain their shape and the shallot edges are beginning to brown, 35-40 minutes (do not stir the tomatoes during roasting).  Let the tomatoes cool for 5 to 10 minutes.

Serves 4.

Nutritional Information Per Serving
Calories:  71.4
Protein:  0.2g
Carbs:  9.7g
Fat:  3.5g (0.5g = Sat.)
Fiber:  0g
Sugars:   4.8g

Crunchy Tomato Bread

Oh, how I love to eat bread!  Bread is a serious weakness of mine.  There are times when I would rather have bread than dessert.  So, when I came across this recipe and stopped to considered this for my carbohydrate for dinner (instead of rice, potato, etc.), I pretty much didn’t hesitate one bit!  It reminds me SO much of bruschetta that it was hard NOT to love it.  The crusty bread, coated in fresh garlic, topped with tomatoes, Italian spices, and cheese . . . uh, you had me at crusty bread!  This is a cinch to pull together and such a wonderful treat this time of year.  The recipe calls for canned plum tomatoes (or diced tomatoes is how we commonly see them on our grocery shelves), but you can easily swap those canned tomatoes out for fresh tomatoes while you have them.  With that said, I’m going to shock several of you when I say that the canned tomatoes are usually better here.  I know . . . I’m gasping right alongside of you!  But, the beauty of this is that you can eat this treat year-round without any hesitation!  Oh!  And, if you’re a balsamic vinegar lover like me, drizzle that over the finish product and you’ll love this even more!

Crunchy Tomato Bread
Adapted from Rocco Dispirito’s “Now Eat This! Diet Recipes”

8 ounces whole wheat baguette
1 garlic clove, peeled and left whole
1 cup canned peeled plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
pinch of red pepper flakes
1/4 grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper

Cut the bread in half lengthwise.  Place it in a toaster oven (or under the broiler in your oven) and toast.

Rub the toasted halves with the clove of garlic.  Divide the tomatoes in half, and distribute them over the bread pieces.  Sprinkle the oregano, red pepper flakes, and cheese over the bread.  Top with a few drops of olive oil, and then season with salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer the bread back to the toaster oven (or broiler) and toast until the tomatoes are warmed through and the cheese is melted, about 5 minutes (watch carefully to ensure your bread does not burn).

Slice into 6 separate pieces.  Serve immediately.  Serves 6.

Nutritional Information (Per Serving)
Calories:  112
Protein:  5.3g
Carbs:  19g
Fat:  2g (0.6 = Sat.)
Fiber:  2.7g