Oh My Gourd (OMG)! Super Easy Roasted Butternut Squash

After such a sizzling summer here in Texas, I am really getting into fall festivity.   The weather here is slowly getting cooler and it feels great! I just love going to the market this time of year and seeing all the gourds so beautifully displayed.  The warm colors remind me of the colors of the changing leaves.  Displaying gourds are such an easy way to add to fall to your home décor;  you can put them in nice bowls as a centerpiece for your dinner parties and warm up the room.  When we think of edible gourds, we commonly think of our famous pumpkin.  But zucchini, squash and some melons also get categorized in the gourd family since they fall in the same plant species.  The orange colored varieties like pumpkin, acorn and squash are high in beta carotene, which is a powerful antioxidant. They are also rich in fiber, potassium and vitamin C.

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Roasting butternut squash is super easy,
and can be a great fall complement to
your family dinners.

Butternut squash is a tasty choice that children have a tendency to like because of its mild taste.  There are a lot of great recipes for butternut squash, but they can be very easy to prepare without a recipe.  For a nice roasted taste, all you have to do is cut one butternut squash in half horizontally and put face up on a baking sheet lined with tin foil.  Scoop out the seeds (you can wash and roast them with a pinch of salt..they are edible!).  Brush the squash with margarine, sprinkle with sea salt and a dash of brown sugar.  Roast it in the oven at 375 for 45-60 minutes until the squash is tender enough to cut with a butter knife.  Cut it up into small squares and serve as a side dish, or if you have more time, add it to some cooked quinoa pine nuts, sautéed onion and your favorite spices for a great flavor combination.  If you want to serve it with an interesting flair, present the roasted squash in-tact and stuff the area where the seeds were with other colorful roasted vegetables.

Take advantage of the great fall vegetables to add a nice, seasonal taste to your family dinners.  Food variety is best for overall nutrition and it also exposes your children to more flavors.  It doesn’t have to be complicated.  What’s your favorite easy, but tasty fall recipe?  I’d love to hear from you!

Empowering Kids in the Kitchen

One of the great benefits of “mommyhood” is to watch your children discover things for the first time. It may be watching them see, taste, learn or experience something that really gets them excited. The foundations we lay in our children have long term impact. It is great to know that the precious time that we invest in their lives will prove to be profitable and equate to large dividends.
The same is true for exposing your children to no pressure food experiences. As parents, we wonder why our children are such picky eaters, or apprehensive to try new flavors – yet we don’t allow our children to “experience” food. Our family recently bought Adobe Premiere Elements, which is video editing software, so we could play around with making our own videos. Over the holiday break, my 6 year old, Hannah and I, spent some time playing around in the kitchen. Hannah loves to be in charge, so we decided to film her very first video of her showing people how to make a tropical fruit smoothie. Hannah’s grandmother got her Disney’s Magic Kitchen Cookbook for Christmas and we are planning to make every recipe.
Hannah was the leader – she decided which recipe she wanted to make and even which fruit she was going to choose to put in the smoothie. We had a discussion about what her viewers might want to know while she is making the recipe – handwashing, cleaning the fruit and safety in the kitchen. As you watch the video, take notice of Hannah’s glances over at me to see my approval. As we let our children take the lead, encourage and commend them on a job well done. Remember their age and their capabilities! Don’t expect perfection. I thought Hannah did wonderful for her very first video shoot! We originally planned it to be just Hannah by herself, but at the last minute, I was added as the “host” so I could assist with filling in any missing gaps. It’s a raw, homegrown video, but I cherish the video documentation of our experience together.
You don’t necessarily have to shoot videos with your children, but I do encourage playing in the kitchen with them.  Allow them to role play as the “chef teacher” so they can gain confidence and learn vital leadership skills in the kitchen and life in general. In our busy everyday lives, let’s all remember to take time out to invest in those ways to build our children up in the kitchen. Hannah and I had a lot of fun, spent some great time together and we look forward to doing some more.
My next post will be a book review of the cookbook. Stay tuned!

thanks to our director, Nicky Hales, and our producer, Jeff Lemond for pushing our small project to completion.

Do Not Fear The Pomegranate

If you have been to the grocery store in the last month, you’ve probably seen the pomegranate displays.  Did you just walk by? It’s that time of year when pomegranates are at their peak season, but the majority of people don’t know what to do with them so they don’t even try them. Or, they are stumped on how to cut the seedy, red-staining fruit up without causing a big mess. I recently received some pomegranate in my produce co-op share and I was looking for new ways to eat this seasonal treat. So, let’s explore pomegranates together.
The word pomegranate is French derived from pomme garnete, which literally means “seeded apple.” Favored by the gods in ancient mythology, considered as a symbol for fertility in many cultures, prosperity among Jews and hope among Christians, this unique fruit has only positive origins and references. Nutritionally, it is a rich source of fiber, postassium, Vitamins C, K, B6 and Pantothenic Acid. Pomegranate contains antioxidants like polyphenols, tannins and anthocyannins which effects in removal of free radicals from our body cells. It also helps in repair of cells and boosts the immune system. Pomegranate juice is known to be among the super healthy drinks of today. It is helpful in osteoarthritis and keeping the skin and heart healthy.
Interested yet?  If I have now piqued your interest about pomegranates, you may consider eating one if you gained confidence in cutting one up. The California Pomegranate Council says that there is an easy 3-step process in cutting and de-seeding pomegranates:

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1. Cut off the crown, and cut the pomegranate into sections.

pomegranate

2. Place the sections in a bowl of water and then roll out the arils (juice sacs) with your fingers. Discard everything else.
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3. Strain out the water, then eat the arils whole, seeds and all.
You can blendarize the arils and seeds to make juice, or use the nutritious seeds as a topping to oatmeal, yogurt or salads. For recipe reference, one medium pomegranate yields about a ¾ cup of seeds and ½ cup juice.
If you want to start slow, try this wonderful nutritient-rich recipe that mildly uses the sweetness of just one pomegranate, but mixes it with bolder flavors of lime, jalapeno and salmon.  As a proud Texan, this is my kinda flavor!
Roasted Salmon with Pomegranate and Avocado Salsa
pomegranate
Roasted Salmon with Pomegranate and Avocado Salsa
2 teaspoons ground coriande
2 teaspoons sugar
Salt, as needed
1 pomegranate, seeded (see above for process)
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onion
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons finely chopped jalapeno pepper or to taste
1 large clove garlic, chopped finely
2 avocados, preferably Hass, cut in 1/2-inch dice
1 head hearts of Romaine, about 7 ounces
4 center-cut Salmon fillets the same thickness, 6 to 7 ounces each
1 lime, cut in eighths for garnish
Mix coriander, sugar, and 1 teaspoon salt; reserve. Up to 4 hours before serving, mix pomegranate seeds, onion, lime juice, jalapeno, and garlic; gently fold in avocado. If holding more than 30 minutes, put plastic wrap against the surface of the salsa, then tightly cover; store in the refrigerator. Remove about 30 minutes before serving. Separate the romaine leaves; wash, then dry thoroughly. Reserve 4 of the most attractive leaves for garnish. Slice the remaining leaves crosswise in thin shreds; reserve.
To prepare the salmon, rub a generous teaspoon of the reserved seasoning mixture over each piece. Arrange the salmon on a baking sheet, skin-side down. Roast at 500˚ F about 11 minutes for medium rare (salmon should be spongy when pressed with a finger at its thickest part.) and 13 minutes for medium-well (salmon should be just firm when pressed with a finger at its thickest part.).
Do you have a favorite recipe that uses pomegranates?  If so, I would love to hear from you!
Some information provided in this post came from the California Pomegranate Council website.