Roasted & Spiced Cabbage Slabs

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Sometimes plain. Sometimes not.
Sometimes spiced, making it hot.

This little rhyme reminded me of an old commercial for chocolate bars. 
'Sometimes you feel like a nut. Sometimes you don't.' 

I realized it's exactly the same when adding spices. Sometimes you feel like spicing things up a bit while others times not.  It got me thinking about the last few recipes I posted.  In the category of 'sometimes plain', my recent post for a quick, pull together stir fry didn't utilize any spices. That recipe was all about letting the vegetables do the talking.  In the 'sometimes not' category, my recipe for cauliflower was all about zinging up the veg and making them sing.

Although I'm not feeling like a nut, I am definitely yearning more spice lately.  It could just be 2018, as many things are being spiced up for me this year. My 2017 was a bit bland, but 2018 is shaping up to be banging.

So with that, here's another spiced up idea for slabs of vegetables.  Given the recent slabbing of cauliflower and dousing with spices, the heads of cabbage were destined to meet the same fate.

Normally, my first 3 thoughts for using cabbage are:

  1. Slaw
  2. Soup
  3. Stir fry

On first viewing, I see cabbage and think of slaw. Hence being at the top of the list.  Then soup, then stir fry.  Since slaw is usually cold food/warm weather food- scratch that.  Number two on the list is soup and that completely fits the cold weather/warm food criteria, and was actually my intention when I bought them.  However, I just wasn't feeling soupy. And third on the list was stir fry.  And as you know, of the three cabbages I bought, the Savoy cabbage actually did make it into the stir fry recipe. But now I had two other heads staring back at me.  My need for variety coupled with my recent desire for spice was screaming at me, 'You can't make stir fry again!'   

Which forced me to add #4 to my hit list...

Roast it, baby!

Hey, this is not such a far fetched idea.  I roast everything.  Much like the cauliflower, it was time to heat things up both in temperature and flavor.

Once again, not wanting a big fuss because I had no idea how this would turn out or what I would serve this with, I kept the prep fairly simple.

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Ingredients

1 small purple cabbage, cut in 3/4 - 1" slabs
1 small green cabbage, cut in 3/4 - 1" slabs
1 rounded t each of cayenne, turmeric, paprika
1 t salt
¼ t red pepper flakes
1 heaping T freshly grated ginger
1 heaping T grated garlic
4-5 T olive oil

Instructions

Cut the cabbage in thick slabs and place them on a baking sheet and drizzle with 2 T oil.

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In small bowl, mix the cayenne, turmeric and paprika. Then sprinkle the mixture on both sides of the cabbage slabs.

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In another small bowl, grate the ginger and garlic, add the red pepper flakes, salt and oil.  Mix and then brush on each slab.

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Roast in a 425 degree oven until soft in the middle and a little crisp on the edges, turning them to ensure they are well roasted on both sides. 

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Once they were done I will admit I wasn't sure what I would do with big spicy slabs.  Certainly, they could be served as a side dish with jasmine rice and grilled chicken or fish.  This would be great with Tikka Chicken and a cucumber yogurt sauce. But I didn't have any of that made, so I packed them up and stored them in the fridge.  As the next day dawned, these spiced cabbages solved a lunch dilemma.  I decided they would be the feature in Indian inspired tacos.  I sautéd some spinach and warmed the cabbage. Grilled corn tortillas melting some cheese on them. Then filled them with the vegetables and topping it with sour cream.  Quite the tasty bite.

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Last Minute Stir Fry - Everything You Have

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Oh the panic!  What to make?  I know that doesn't sound like the me who is the cheerleader for 'don't worry, 'just throw something together.' Yet that was the overwhelming feeling I had last week when I got entrenched in work, looked up at the clock, realized it was 7pm and I hadn't started dinner.  Not only was nothing prepped or cooking at that hour but I really had no clue what I was going to make. And, tick tock, my sister was due to arrive. 
It's time like these when one really needs to rely on the Houdini skill set of making something appear out of nowhere.  Sure, I had produce in the fridge.  Some of which were destined for future recipe ideas for the blog, but, oh boy, did these seem like random items.  Fear not, as nothing is ever random or can't party together.  You just need to ruminate on what unites them.  (I venture to say that that is true in all aspects of life.)

Upon grabbing every produce item I could find, I sectioned off what I thought would work.  As I stared at them, pondering their destiny, I wondered what common thread would weave this tale... 

Rice Sticks.  The perfect item to string them together.  Let the chopping, stirring and combining begin.

From the top left: Enoki mushrooms, spinach, Cremini mushrooms, scallions, Shitake mushrooms, garlic, snow peas, parsley, onion, red cabbage (which at the last minute I opted not to include), and savory cabbage which seemed to be camera shy and slipped out of the shot.

From the top left: Enoki mushrooms, spinach, Cremini mushrooms, scallions, Shitake mushrooms, garlic, snow peas, parsley, onion, red cabbage (which at the last minute I opted not to include), and savory cabbage which seemed to be camera shy and slipped out of the shot.

Ingredients

Vegetable Stir Fry (These were the amounts that I grabbed.  It was enough for 2 servings.  Increase for your needs.  Also, you can add more of any items that suits your fancy but these proportions created a good blend of flavors.)

3-4 T olive oil
1 T sesame oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 garlic clove
6-7 Shitake mushrooms, sliced
8-10 Cremini mushrooms, rough chop
1 - 7oz package of Enoki mushrooms
1.5 c snow peas, cut on diagonal
2 c Savory cabbage, chopped
3 c baby spinach, rough chop
2 scallions, sliced
1/4 c parsley, rough chop
salt and pepper to taste
fresh grated ginger (optional)

Rice Noodle Stir Fry
1/2 pkg Rice Stick Noodles (you can also use a wider rice noodle, or rags)
1/2 onion, sliced
1 garlic clove
1/3 heaping c chives, fine chop
2 T olive oil
1 T sesame oil

Whenever I have a lot of ingredients that don't need to be cooked all at the same time instead of the usual mise en place ( prepping everything first), I opt to chop what needs to be cooked first. Then while those are cooking, I continue to prep the remaining ingredients.  Ah, multitasking. It's a glorious thing.  To help make this recipe easier, I listed the ingredients above in the order they should be prepped and cooked. 

Instructions

Let the rice stick noodles soak in warm water until softened.  Do not cook these, just soak them first.

Rice Noodle sticks.  You can use whatever style you prefer.  A wider noodle would also work well.

Rice Noodle sticks.  You can use whatever style you prefer.  A wider noodle would also work well.

In a large skillet, sauté the onions and garlic in olive and sesame oils until translucent. Add the Shitake and Cremini mushrooms, allowing them to get a nice sear before adding the Enoki mushrooms.  Season with salt and pepper. If you are adding the freshly grated ginger, add that at this time. 

An earthy mix that starts the flavor base.

An earthy mix that starts the flavor base.

While the mushrooms are cooking, in a separate sauté pan, add oils, onions, garlic and chives and cook until softened.  Add the rice stick noodles and stir until all the noodles are coated with the oil.  You might need to add some of the soaking liquid to avoid them clumping together.  Season with salt.

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Once the mushrooms have a good sear, then add the snow peas and allow to soften but still have crunch.  Next add the cabbage and spinach and stir until just wilted. Then add the scallions and parsley. Taste for seasoning and adjust according.

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To serve, you can combine the noodles and vegetables together. We opted for noodles on the bottom and stir fry on the top.  I didn't use grated ginger because Jill isn't a fan. (What!!?? I know, it's a crime.  Even though I didn't add it for our dinner, I am absolutely sure it would be a great addition to the dish.)

So sure, this is another easy, something from nothing, pull it out the air kind of dish, but here is the funny part.  I realize that I always say this or that recipe is easy.  And I truly mean it. So when my sister, Jill, enjoyed this meal so much she went back for seconds, a very rare occasion since she eats the amount of tiny bird, I told her it was easy, she could totally make it. Her response, "You say that about everything you make. It's easy for YOU."  But when I recounted what I did she said, "Well, I guess that IS easy."  So there you have it.  From the mouth of my muse, if she thinks it's easy, so will you.

Linguine with Oven Roasted Tomatoes, Olives & Spinach

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Hello fellow pasta lovers.  I know I have been neglecting you. Believe me when I tell you that it is not from a lack of making pasta. Quite the contrary. I make and eat pasta. (Gluten free now) Maybe not as often as before when I used to eat it every day.  Yeah, you read that correctly.  EVERY DAY. Oh the glory years.  Every day requires a lot of invention. Which meant I needed to come up with a variety of combinations to swirl, toss and top my pasta.  This is the very essence of the 'something from nothing' style, and how I pretty much make every pasta dish. Which leaves you wondering why the hell I'm not posting them given that it is the literal building block of my blog. Oh the irony.  Quite frankly, these dishes, although delicious, didn't seem like such revolutionary ideas, nor ones you wouldn't have thought up yourselves.  But maybe not. So, if it's pasta you want, it's pasta you get.  Who I am to deny anyone from eating pasta? I'm not crazy.

This combo literally was a throw it together dish from last week.  I was spending time with my niece Gianna before she headed back to college, my alma mater Binghamton University. Our afternoon of shopping ended right at the dinner hour and we were hungry.  We first thought of grabbing a bite at some local restaurant, but Gianna being every thoughtful and dollar conscious, said why spend money.  After mentioning that I didn't have a ton to choose from at home, save pasta, her answer: "Well, I would never turn down pasta."  And this why she is my goddaughter.  Like minds.

Here we go with the old open the fridge and see what we have...

Container of oven roasted tomatoes

Moroccan oil cured black olives

Baby spinach

That's all we needed to make a pasta that had some real depth of flavor.

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Ingredients

1 lb. linguine (I used Tinkyada gluten free)
3.5 c oven roasted tomatoes
1/2c approx. roasting oil & juices from the tomatoes
1/3 c Moroccan oli cured olives, rough chop
4 c baby spinach, rough chop
1/2 med. yellow onion, diced (approx. 2/3 c)
3 large cloves garlic, sliced
pinch red pepper flakes, optional
Magic 3 (Olive Oil,  Salt, Pepper)

Moroccan Black Oil Cured Olives

Moroccan Black Oil Cured Olives

Instructions

Dice the onions, slice the garlic, chop the olives. While the pasta is cooking, sauté the onions and garlic until just softened. Add the olives and stir to combine. 

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Add the tomatoes plus their roasting oil and spinach and let cook until spinach is wilted and everything is warmed through.  Season to taste. (Note that the olives add a salty flavor so go light handed when adding salt.  TASTE, taste, taste.)

Once pasta is al dente, transfer it to the sauce pan and combine all together letting it cook the last minute in the sauce.  Top with grated cheese.

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The sweetness from the tomatoes, the salty, earthy flavor from the olives and the bite of spinach. There really is no need for me to tell you that this was yummy.  Trust me, it was.  So much so, I made it again when my sis, Jill came for her weekly visit.  Pasta NEVER disappoints. It really does provide a double dose of love.

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Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Spinach, Feta & Goat Cheese

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I love when we have friends and family stay with us.  It gives me even more motivation to cook and find some new dishes to test out.  Such was the case when my brother came to visit from L.A. for an extended stay.  He was in town to research and write a movie script which the timing of his visit just so happened to coincide with my mom's knee replacement surgery.  Lucky for me, he was able to do all the heavy lifting in helping her recup. He bopped back and forth from our house to my parents, where he did all the cooking while staying at their house. So naturally I wanted to give him a break when he was at ours.  He is most definitely into healthy eating and steering clear of wheat and bread.  Which was perfect, since so do I. We enjoyed a few good meals mixing up the proteins and sides but mostly keeping it simple.

With chicken on the menu for his last night in NY, I wanted to make it slightly more special than just oven roasted.  You can count on me to rev up the creative juices when the fridge is full with stuff that needs to be used.  Hence, "let me stuff chicken breasts with spinach, feta and goat cheese."  All of which were in some crazy abundance in the fridge that week.  (The goat was was originally destined for a tart idea that's been brewing. The spinach was supposed to have been a side dish. And the feta was one cheese that my brother asked for salads and for Greek inspired dishes. So that explains it.) 

Besides just enjoying his company, I double downed on my good fortune of having him around as he snapped photos while I prepared this meal. Among his many talents, add photographer with a keen eye. So while my hands were full or messy, he documented the prep work.  I'm telling you, as much as I love taking photos of what I make, it was a real treat to be able to just cook and not worry about cleaning my hands, taking the shot, then back to mixing, stirring or chopping.  I'm spoiled now.

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ingredients

4 chicken breasts
14 oz baby spinach*, sautéed
2 T shallots, minced
2 T garlic, minced
1/2 c goat cheese
1/2 c feta cheese
1/2 c white wine (I used Muga Rosé, as it was leftover)
Oil roasted tomatoes
Magic 3 (Olive Oil, Salt, Pepper)

* I used 20 oz of spinach which was more than enough for filling but I used the rest as leftovers the next day to make corn quesadillas with feta.

Instructions

Sauté the shallots, garlic in oil seasoning with salt and pepper.  Add the spinach, cooking until wilted, then set aside to cool. 

I chopped the spinach because I thought it would be easier to eat as well as insert into the chicken.   Photo credit: Robert Perri

I chopped the spinach because I thought it would be easier to eat as well as insert into the chicken.   Photo credit: Robert Perri

Clean, wash and thoroughly dry the chicken breasts.  Then cut a pocket into the thick middle of each breast. (Note: making sure your protein (chicken, meat, fish) is thoroughly dried ensures you will get a good sear.)

Photo credit: Robert Perri

Photo credit: Robert Perri

Stuff each one with spinach then add the goat and feta cheeses into the pocket.  Secure with a toothpick. 

Photo credit: Robert Perri

Photo credit: Robert Perri

Photo credit: Robert Perri

Photo credit: Robert Perri

Photo credit: Robert Perri

Photo credit: Robert Perri

Season the chicken with salt, pepper and olive oil, then sear them on both sides in a cast iron skillet.  Add wine and oven roasted tomatoes and then place in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the chicken.

Photo credit: Robert Perri

Photo credit: Robert Perri

Photo credit: Robert Perri

Photo credit: Robert Perri

Photo credit: Robert Perri

Photo credit: Robert Perri

Photo credit: Robert Perri

Photo credit: Robert Perri

It just so happened that my sister, Jill, was also in town, which made it a nice send off.  It was too bad that my other sis, Alyssa, couldn't make it.  Since we were a party of four I needed some side dishes.  Pulling items out of the fridge, here's the list of extras.

And there you have a goodbye meal that felt like we were sending him back home with love.

Photo credit: Robert Perri

Photo credit: Robert Perri

Photo credit: Robert Perri

Photo credit: Robert Perri

He doesn't like his photo to be taken, so you will have to take my word for it that he enjoyed the meal with a smile.  Enough so that he ate some of the leftovers the next day before we drove to JFK. And just the other day he told me that he recreated this dish when he got home. A Winner.
I think this could also be a good brunch dish.  If you slice the cutlets in thick pieces, place them all on a large platter and pour the juices and tomatoes over top, it's an easy pick up and go dish for a buffet.

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Feeding the people you love is what cooking is all about.  Whether you are making a meal for someone coming into town or someone who is leaving, nourishing their bodies and souls is always better stirred with love.  A most wholesome gift indeed.

Pasta with Roasted Butternut Squash Purée - A Recreation

 

 

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So yeah, I have a food and entertaining blog which means I cook a lot.  I also like to experiment, so that keeps me in the kitchen cooking things up. But I fully realize that not everyone has time to dedicate to home cooked meals all the time.  Indeed, it does take time and energy.  For some, making a meal at home can be as much of a treat as going out to dinner.  It just depends on your perspective.  Sometimes going out is the salvation and sometimes vice a versa.  And so it was a couple of weeks ago when I was down visiting my dear friends Emily and Lorne.  Emily had just watched some videos about grilling and she was excited to test drive some ideas. The goal was to grill and fill the dinner table with a variety of selections, from cauliflower to sweet potato slabs to hamburgers.  It was a delicious meal, with the best part being that everyone got involved in either cutting, flipping or tending to the grill. Plus the big treat; eating a healthy, good meal at home. And as any good 'vice versa' goes, the next evening was dinner out. They took the family, and me, for a delicious dinner at restaurant near their home in Maryland.  Two treats; one in, one out, two different ways.

On our restaurant adventure, Emily made a healthy but yummy choice of roasted butternut squash soup and salad. As did Lorne, who ordered a seared scallop dish. The boys had chicken dishes and grilled pizza.  I, on the other hand, went for the full indulgence of a Butternut Squash Pasta dish.  Decadent and delicious is the only way to describe this piece d'resistance.

There were so many layers of earthy flavors in this dish, all co-mingling in luscious harmony. I can still taste it.  So why not try to bring that harmony back.

It was Sunday again. Boy, do the weeks fly by fast.  And Sundays have traditionally signified pasta feasting day. So it goes to stand that was what I would make.  With the taste of that pasta still lingering in my mind and on my palate, I ventured to recreate it for JuanCarlos.   

I do warn you that this dish is going to take a few more steps than my own recipes.  I am usually a firm believer in simple preparation, few but fresh ingredients and not too fussy.  But this pasta was so good that I'm willing to go the extra yards.

The restaurant offered it with bucatini, which I'm sure would have been amazing, but since I am gluten free they served me a spaghetti option fitting that need.  The flavor combos were bold. Spice roasted butternut squash purée as the base. Pasta tossed with pumpkin seed pesto chive oil, wild mushrooms and wilted spinach topped with garlic confit.  Oh, if only I had thought up this medley to take credit. But alas, I did not.  I can only try to figure out what they did and remake to indulge once again.

Here goes.  Stick with me.  It will be worth it.

The line up: Spinach, wild mushrooms, butternut squash, basil, garlic, pumpkin seeds, cinnamon, nutmeg, parmesan cheese, and pasta.

The line up: Spinach, wild mushrooms, butternut squash, basil, garlic, pumpkin seeds, cinnamon, nutmeg, parmesan cheese, and pasta.

Ingredients

For Roasted Butternut Squash
1 butternut squash (8 c cubed), roasted
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1/4 c olive oil 

For Garlic Confit
1 head garlic cloves (approx. 11 large cloves)
2/3 c olive oil

For Spinach & Mushrooms
5-6 c wild mushrooms (Cremini, Shiitake, Oyster, Japanese Brown Beech)
8 c baby spinach
Magic 3 (Olive Oil, salt, pepper)

For Pesto
8 c basil leaves, loosely packed
1/2 c pumpkin seeds, roasted (reserve some to garnish)
1/2 c Parmesan cheese
1-2 garlic cloves
1 1/4 c olive oil
salt, pepper to taste
1 lb pasta (I use Tinkyada brown rice linguine)
Parmesan cheese shavings (optional)

Before I embark on instructions. A quick note about multitasking.  I may not highlight this point in each post I write but it's always there.  It's the art of preparing items in a order so that food is cooking, marinating, chilling, etc while you are tackling another task.  This recipe will definitely call for some serious multitasking.

In this recipe there are two parts that will need up to an hour of cooking time.  Those are the roasted butternut squash and the garlic confit.  So we will start there.  (Confit just means poaching in oil slowly, slowly, slowly.  Did I say it takes time? Yes, slowly. And don't let the fancy name freak you out.  This method is beyond super easy.)

Instructions

Peel, remove seeds and cube the butternut squash.  (You can wash and dry the seeds, then roast them for snacking... or toss them out.)

Carefully peel the hard skin off the squash.  I find that a knife works best.

Carefully peel the hard skin off the squash.  I find that a knife works best.

Coat the squash with oil, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.   Then roast at 400 degrees for 45 min to hour, until very soft and mashable.

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Once you have the butternut squash in the oven, start on the garlic confit.

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Peel garlic cloves and leave whole. In a small saucepan, add garlic and enough olive oil to cover.

Olive oil's golden goodness poured lovingly over garlic cloves.

Olive oil's golden goodness poured lovingly over garlic cloves.

Over low heat, poach for one hour.

While the oven is still on with the squash roasting away, place the pumpkin seeds on a separate baking sheet, roast for 7-10 minutes, or just until lightly toasted.  Set aside to cool.

Pumpkin seeds add great texture to the pesto.

Pumpkin seeds add great texture to the pesto.

The next ingredient to tackle, and in order of length of cooking time is the mushrooms.  Clean and cut them into bite sized pieces.  Sauté them in oil, seasoning with salt and pepper.  The key to cooking mushrooms is not fussing with them.  Once you place them in the pan don't touch them.  Let them get a good sear on them then you can turn them over.  Allow them to cook and get crispy.  

I used a mixture of cremini, shitake, oyster and Japanese Brown Beech mushrooms.  Use whatever ones you like.

I used a mixture of cremini, shitake, oyster and Japanese Brown Beech mushrooms.  Use whatever ones you like.

Put the pasta water up to boil. While the water is going and the mushrooms are cooking move onto making the pesto.

In a food processor, combine basil, pumpkin seeds, garlic and pulse until a fine chop. Then add in parmesan cheese and oil. (The restaurant version called for chive oil, but I didn't feel it was necessary to tack on another item.) Pulse until well blended and season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove and clean the processor, as you will need it to purée the squash.

Pesto goodness in the making.

Pesto goodness in the making.

Once the mushrooms are done, remove and use the same pan to wilt the baby spinach, add a bit of oil to help wilt the leaves.

Spinach just needs to be wilted over low heat.

Spinach just needs to be wilted over low heat.

By this time, the garlic should be done.  The butternut squash should be roasted and ready to purée.  But before that it's time to put the pasta in to cook.  Place the squash cubes in the processor and plus until smooth.  You may need to add some oil if too thick.

Roasted chunks of sweetness

Roasted chunks of sweetness

Roasted Butternut Squash Purée

Roasted Butternut Squash Purée

Now with all the ingredients roasted, sautéd and mixed you are ready to compose the final dish. Drain the pasta and reserve some of the water.

All the work is done.  All the ingredients are ready.

All the work is done.  All the ingredients are ready.

In a bowl combine the pasta and pesto together until coated.  Then mix in the mushrooms, spinach and garlic and gently toss together. Spread the roasted purée on the bottom of each plate and then pile the pasta on top.  Finish with some roasted pumpkin seeds, shaved Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of the garlic oil and a clove or two.

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I know this sounds like more work than my usual recipes.  That's because it's not my recipe.  But honestly, once and while it's nice to spend a bit more time creating a dish that warms your belly and your soul.  It's perfect for a Sunday when you might have a bit more time to spare. And to give you some incentive to take this dish on,  increase the ingredients amount.  Since you are taking the time to make each of these items for this one dish, why not make a bit more and use the extra butternut squash, spinach, mushrooms in dishes for the remainder of week. You can use the squash to make a soup.  Use the spinach and mushrooms to make a frittata or quiche or as side dishes for chicken.  Cook once, eat twice or thrice.

As I mentioned, I use the brown rice pasta for mine but made JC's with regular wheat penne pasta. He really enjoyed this dish but in all fairness, he thought the butternut squash was too sweet for his palate. I thought it gave just the right amount to counter all the other intense flavors.

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Please give this one a try.  I can't take credit for any part of this dish other than tasting it and attempting to recreate it to share with you.  It's nice to share.

 

 

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