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Honey-Balsamic Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta

Honey-Balsamic Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta

Sooooo, let’s talk about veggies for a second.  What’s your favorite vegetable?  Silly question, right?  Wouldn’t it be so much more fun if I was asking you…”What’s your favorite cocktail? or What’s your favorite pizza topping? or even How do you like your eggs?”  But for […]

Easy Honey-Thyme Whipped Butternut Squash

Easy Honey-Thyme Whipped Butternut Squash

Can you feel the chill in the air?  What about the crisp morning freshness of an overnight frost or the crackle of leaves under your cute new walking boots?  As we cozy up in warm sweaters and put on Sunday football (So far, my team […]

Harvest Stuffed Acorn Squash

Harvest Stuffed Acorn Squash

Shhhhh….Can you keep a secret? I have a girlfriend confession here… Ready!!! I have a huge crush on…wait for it…SQUASH. These gourds have got this girl spinning! Could it be love??? I mean, I think about their incredible taste and versatility all the time!!! The silky, buttery softness of acorn; the honey sweetness of butternut, and don’t even get me started on my diet-friendly “partner-in-crime” spaghetti squash. (31 calories per cup, people!)

It’s definitely love, for sure. I can’t live without squash. That may seem like an exaggeration, but every single week this sneaky vegetable makes its way into my grocery cart. I use shredded zucchini in so many recipes. It’s a great, very low-calorie filler that actually adds moisture to your recipe. This beauty is low in carbs and sugars, and high in potassium, manganese, vitamin C & A. Sunny yellow summer squash is full of antioxidants and is ever so yummy in my mother-in-law’s creamy casserole. Antioxidants, substances that help prevent the damaging effects of oxidation on cells throughout your body, are plentiful in many foods, primarily fruits and vegetables. Because there are beneficial interactions between antioxidants and other components of foods, health authorities say that getting antioxidants from food may offer health benefits superior to those taken in supplement form. Oh, and my first ever published recipe was a mashed butternut squash with butter, honey, cream and herbs. Veggie comfort food at it’s finest.

One of my absolute favorite ways to make (and eat!) squash is by stuffing and roasting it. Acorn squash has the perfect shape for this. Cut in half, they make these awesome little cups that are just begging to filled with all kinds of yummy fare. The options really are endless and in many cases, unhealthy.

In creating this dish, I challenged myself to use ingredients that would be delicious, gluten-free and good for you. I just couldn’t take all the healthy goodness of acorn squash and ruin it by adding a ton of fat and carbs. But it still had to taste Ahh-Maz-ing! This dish actually sneaks in other veggies (does it get any better than that!) that take the place of the bread crumbs that you would find in a traditional stuffing.

We use chicken sausage instead of pork sausage to save even more calories and cut out some fat. I love cheese, who doesn’t??? So we finish our stuffed squash with a sprinkle of mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. We are so careful with all of our other ingredients, we can splurge here, and its sooooo worth it. By swapping out and tweaking our savory stuffing, this tasty dish is warm, delicious, melty goodness that’s actually good for you.

I bet you’ll have a crush on squash soon too!

4 large acorn squash
3 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 small carrots, peeled and diced
1-lb raw chicken sausage, casings removed
1 zucchini, shredded and drained of excess liquid
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 – 10oz bag of baby spinach
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp white cooking wine
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut each acorn squash in half and scoop out seeds. Place cut side down in 13 x 9 inch glass baking dish. Pour 1/2 cup of water into baking dish. Cover dish tightly with foil and bake for 20-30 minutes or until squash is tender but not overcooked and mushy.

While squash is baking away, let’s prep this healthy, delicious stuffing. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, saute the onion, celery and carrots in olive oil for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. When veggies are starting to soften, add the chicken sausage, breaking up into bite-sized pieces with a wooden spoon while cooking. When sausage is almost cooked, but still a little pink, add the shredded zucchini, spinach, red pepper flakes, and white wine. Cook for another 3 minutes or until sausage is completely cooked

Drain any water that remains in the baking dish holding the squash and turn the squash cut side up. Spoon the stuffing mixture into our beautiful squash cups. Sprinkle the parmesan and mozzarella cheeses on top of each masterpiece and bake, uncovered, for another 5 minutes or until cheese is melted. Enjoy every savory, mouthwatering bite!

If you have a dairy allergy or prefer not to add the cheese, go right ahead. I promise, it will still be delicious.

Makes 4 servings

#acornsquash #stuffedacornsquash #glutenfree #dairyfree #easyweeknightdinners
#fallfood

Bacon and Blue Sweet Potato Salad

Bacon and Blue Sweet Potato Salad

Oh, the dog days of summer…they are here, whether we want to accept it or not. (Personally, you have to drag me kicking and screaming into fall. I know what comes next.) The kids are back in school. The nights are getting cooler and very […]

Incredibly Yummy Red Sangria

Incredibly Yummy Red Sangria

You’re probably thinking, this girl has got some nerve to brag about a chilled wine with fruit. BRAG I WILL!!! This is another one of my all-time favorite summer entertaining recipes. (Actually, it’s enjoyed by all EVERY SEASON.) This delicious drink goes way back for […]

Tuscan Pasta Salad

Tuscan Pasta Salad

There is no doubt that pasta salad is a summer staple.  You can’t go to a picnic, barbecue or summer shindig without finding some sort of noodle concoction. It’s like getting a hot dog at a baseball game…it’s just going to happen. So it’s safe to say that you will come in close contact with a big bowl of cold farfalle, rotini or fusilli. (Hopefully, it’s a tasty one!)

Let’s take a moment to talk about how pasta salad has evolved. Long gone are the days of a elbow macaroni mixed with canned tuna fish, sitting in a bath of mayonnaise. (I’m not knocking anyone still loves this version. On occasion, I walk down memory lane with the retro dish and can almost transport back in time to when I was 10 years old.) Next, we saw veggies venture into the party; chopped red onion and green pepper, chunks of cucumber and tomato with a vinaigrette type dressing. Good, but still room for improvement. There was just something missing. Maybe it was the texture of biting into a chunk of crunchy green pepper and a tender piece of pasta. It’s not a perfect match for me. We can do better!!!

The search was born. About 10 years ago, I stumbled upon a recipe that called for adding Italian deli meats to a pasta and veggie type salad. Just the springboard I needed!!! Over the years, I’ve experimented with all kinds of veggies, meats, pasta shapes and dressings. No surprise; I found that salty meats like salami or pepperoni work best. Of course!!!

I also wanted the flavor of the veggies, but a little less crunch, so I started lightly grilling or roasting some of the veggies. This deepened the flavors while softening the veggies a little. Combining these grilled veggies with traditional Italian antipasto vegetables like olives, marinated artickokes and roasted red peppers did the trick.

I also found that adding cheese helps to round out the flavors for the perfect bite every mouthful. Chunks of provolone or cheddar or fresh mozzarella balls were my best contenders. A good pasta salad should be put together a few hours in advance so the pasta has a chance to cool completely and the flavors marry. EXCEPT the cheese…Our friend, cheese is a fickle dude, if he hangs out too long before serving he gets mushy and watery. Who wants that??? To avoid this, I fold the chunks of cheese into the salad right before serving.

So, are you ready to party…picnic, BBQ or potluck? And are you ready for the many compliments that are sure to come your way? Soak it up my friend, you’ve got this!

If you are gluten free, dairy free or vegetarian, no worries, we can tailor this dish to you too. Please see my suggestions at the end of the recipe to make this yours. There are so many possibilities. Cooking should be fun, enjoyable and all about YOU! Tailor recipes to what you like and be creative. It’s your kitchen, get empowered and have FUN!

1 bell pepper, any color, seeded and chopped
1 yellow squash, chopped
1 zucchini squash, chopped
1 red onion, cut into 3/4 inch slices
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 1/2 lbs pasta (I like multi-colored rotini)
1 pint grape tomatoes, cut in half
6 oz. black olives, cut in half
6 oz. kalamata olives, cut in half
12 oz. marinated artichoke hearts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cucumber, peeled and chopped
8oz. Genoa salami or pepperoni
24 oz. Italian or vinaigrette dressing (your favorite store bought brand)
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (or more if you like spice)
16 oz. cheese, cut into 1/2 inch chunks (for this recipe I used an artisan cheddar with pepperoni, but Provolone or fresh mozzarella can be used too)

Prepare pasta according to package directions. While waiting for the water to boil, preheat your grill to med-low heat (or oven to 350, if you plan to roast your veggies). Combine chopped bell pepper, yellow and zucchini squash and red onion in a large mixing bowl. In small mixing bowl; combine olive oil, garlic and onion powders and salt and pepper. Pour over veggies, tossing to coat. Grill veggies on a grill pan for 4-6 minutes or until they start to get tender, stirring halfway through. (Follow the same instructions if roasting. You may need to increase cooking time by a few minutes.)

When pasta is cooked a little past al dente; (The definition of al dente is cooked firm to the bite. You want your pasta to be tender, but far from mushy.) drain and rinse in cold water.

Let’s put it all together. In large serving bowl; mix the pasta, grilled veggies, salami or pepperoni and remaining veggies. Stir in salad dressing, onion powder, Romano cheese and red pepper flakes, mixing well to incorporate. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.

When it’s time to eat, fold in the cheese chunks and stir to mix up salad dressing, pasta and veggies. Serve immediately. Mangia!

Gluten Free – For my gluten free friends (myself included) use gluten free pasta. I like Barilla or Ronzoni brands.

Dairy Free – If you are dairy free, use vegan Parmesan cheese and omit the chunks of cheese.

Vegetarian – Skip the meat and add chick peas or toasted tofu, stirring in right before serving.

Low Carb – Skip the pasta, double the grilled veggies and add some delicious cooked quinoa.

#pastasalad #picnicrecipes #glutenfree #dairyfree #vegetarian #myfamilydinner #summersalads #yummy

Smoky Mexican Grilled Chicken with Summer Veggie & Black Bean Hash

Smoky Mexican Grilled Chicken with Summer Veggie & Black Bean Hash

It’s finally summer here in New England!!! I’m sure I can speak collectively for all cold weather folks – We LIVE for warm weather months (especially if you aren’t a skier, as I am certainly not). Yes, it’s relaxing when we are snowed in on […]

Parmesan Crusted Cod over Spinach Saute with Red Pepper Sauce

Parmesan Crusted Cod over Spinach Saute with Red Pepper Sauce

Feast your eyes People!  One of my favorite parts of this healthy dinner is the gorgeous mix of colors.  The creamy white of the cod fish, the deep green of the wholesome spinach and the succulent red of the roasted red pepper sauce that finishes […]

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms with Mascarpone Creme

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms with Mascarpone Creme

If you like appetizer stuffed mushrooms, you’re going to LOVE this main-dish version. Earthy, meaty portobello mushrooms are filled with a savory chicken sausage stuffing and finished with delectable mascarpone cheese. This is one of my favorite “at home date-night” dishes. Easy to put together, but delicious and very impressive. (If I do say so myself!) Pair with crusty Italian bread and a salad and you’ve got some major brownie points coming your way!

4 large portobello mushrooms, stems removed
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup minced yellow onion
14 oz package of Italian chicken sausage
1 medium zucchini squash, shredded and laid out on a paper towel
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup bread crumbs (regular or gluten free)
1/2 cup chicken broth
4 oz mascarpone cheese
2 Tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Let’s start by gently rinsing our mushrooms to remove any surface dirt. Pat dry with a paper towel and place in a greased baking dish. Season with salt and pepper. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, on med-high heat, cook onion in oil for 2 minutes. Remove the sausage from casings. Add sausage to pan, breaking up into small bits with a wooden spoon until it’s starting to brown. Mix shredded zucchini into sausage and cook for another 5 minutes or until sausage is no longer pink.

Remove pan from heat and stir in bread crumbs and chicken broth. Spoon 1/4 of the stuffing into each portobello. Then top each mushroom with 1/2 Tbsp butter. Lastly, spoon 2 Tbsp of the mascarpone cheese over the butter and stuffing.

Bake uncovered for about 10 minutes or until the mascarpone cheese is mostly melted. Remove from oven. Gently place each mushroom on individual serving dishes. Spoon the juices from the serving dish onto each mushroom. Serve immediately.

#stuffedmushrooms #mascarponecheese #datenightdinners #glutenfree #easyentertaining #myfamilydinner #portobellomushrooms

Loaded Caprese Panini

Loaded Caprese Panini

I’m so, so proud of this recipe. Doesn’t it look delicious!!! I can brag about this one shamelessly because… it’s not my creation. I’m so very EXCITED to introduce you to a feature of “mFd” that is a project so close to my heart. “Lil […]