I did it again. I gave a complete stranger unsolicited cooking advice in public, and I am not ashamed to say it.
Several days ago, I stopped by my favorite place to buy fall squash, Melody Acres in Bargersville. I was looking over the squash when I heard a woman on the phone with her daughter asking how she should prepare spaghetti squash.
Her daughter must not have known because she hung up and started to look it up on her smartphone. Seeing an opportunity to help, I approached the woman and shared with her a quick and easy way to make it and exactly how easy it was to prepare.
It occurred to me then that many people seem to eat the same thing week after week and rarely branch out because they are unsure how to prepare new foods.
Case in point: spaghetti squash. By far my favorite in the squash family next to zucchini, this one is a great substitute for pasta in many dishes. I defy anyone to try buttered spaghetti squash covered in my meaty marinara and not like it.
Right now, everywhere you look there are many types of squash available. If you go to a market where they are well-labeled, such as Melody Acres or Taylor Farm Market, you can even get a little information on how to prepare them and how long they will keep, etc.
I found my new go-to pumpkin variety that I now use for pie from reading the information displayed with each variety. The Cinderella not only is pretty to look at but also makes a really good pie.
But finding one that your family will eat takes a bit of trial and error. I add a bit of mashed butternut squash to thicken up certain soups and stews, and a few slices of cream of the crop make a nice pairing in the pan when roasting chicken or pork. But I had to try a few first to see what I liked. Fortunately, most squash have a low price point this time of year, and they have a long shelf life when kept at room temperature.
So today, to help you out a little bit with your fall cooking, I am sharing three recipes that I made this week. I used a few of my kitchen standbys: The slow cooker, the casserole and the one-skillet meal.
I have said it before and I am saying again, the slow cooker is your friend.
Put aside the commentary in today’s most popular food publications. Chances are those people have never had to get a meal on the table for their family on a busy weeknight after working all day. Some days you just want to come home and have dinner ready and waiting for you. When you use a slow cooker, you can do just that.
Another quick fix is the one-skillet meal. One-skillet meals are great for busy evenings. Try the recipe I have included today with chicken or turkey sausage for a flavorful combination of butternut squash and apples. If you like, toss in a handful of dried cranberries for added sweetness, maybe even drizzle a bit of pure maple syrup on top.
Lastly, the traditional casserole gets a skinny facelift with the substitution of low-fat plain yogurt for mayonnaise or other soft cheese binders to hold it together. Warm, hearty and nutritious, this casserole is a wonderful way to use your autumn garden.
Use whatever fall veggies you like and have on hand. This is even great with shrimp, ham or leftover chicken thrown in.
Chicken and Sweet Potato Stew
1 pound of boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut in half
2 pounds of sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into thick spears
8 ounces of fresh, sliced mushrooms
6 large shallots, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 cup of dry white wine
2 teaspoons of fresh rosemary, chopped or ½ teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon of pepper
1½ tablespoons of white wine vinegar
Place chicken and mushrooms in the bowl of a slow cooker. In a small bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients except the sweet potatoes. Pour over the chicken. Place the sweet potato spears on top. Close the lid and cook on low for 5 hours or until chicken is cooked through.
This is great served over steamed brown rice.
Turkey Sausage, Apple and Butternut Squash Skillet
1 12- to 16-ounce package of turkey or chicken sausage, sliced
1 medium butternut squash, prepared (see below)
2 medium apples, cored and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 medium onion cut into 1-inch pieces
2 teaspoons of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Toss all ingredients into a large skillet. Cook on medium-low heat until apples are softened, and ingredients are caramelizing and fragrant.
For the squash: Poke several holes in the squash. Microwave on high for 10 minutes or until soft. Remove from microwave and peel or cut away skin. Slice in half, scoop away the seeds. Dice into 1-inch chunks.
Fall Vegetable Casserole
1 large onion, diced
3 cups of mixed fall vegetables, diced (carrots, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 cup of plain yogurt
1 teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon of pepper
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
1 cup of shredded medium cheddar cheese
1 cup of Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a skillet over medium heat, saute onion and vegetables in oil for 15-20 minutes. Place cooked vegetables in a colander to drain any excess liquids and set aside.
In a mixing bowl, combine yogurt, salt, pepper, garlic powder and cheddar cheese and fold together. Fold in the vegetables. Pour into a buttered casserole dish and cover with breadcrumbs. Press down on top of casserole to even out. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until bubbly.
Heather Tallman lives in the Center Grove area and writes the cooking blog Basilmomma.