Roasted Butternut Squash with Brown Sugar and Vanilla

Ever finish eating something and immediately want to eat it again?  That’s what happened with this roasted butternut squash with brown sugar and vanilla. I finished it, and wanted more! Sadly, it was the last of the squash and the last of the nuts.  However, squash is definitely on my shopping list for my next trip to the supermarket.

What made this recipe so good?  The vanilla and nuts almost made me feel as if I were eating a cookie or some sort of dessert rather than a vegetable.  It was sweet, without being cloying, as there’s very little sugar in it.  Topping it with a mixture of nuts and craisins (dried, sweetened cranberries) added a bit of crunch and a sweet/tart tang.

The original version of this recipe (which I found on the Neilsen-Massey web site), called for vanilla sugar. Since I didn’t have any and had no interest in going out and searching for some in the stores, I simply added a bit of vanilla to some brown sugar instead. As far as I’m concerned it worked perfectly, and I didn’t have to buy an extra ingredient. Win win!

The nuts I used were an unsalted mixture from Trader Joe’s with hazelnuts, cashews and pecans.  Use whatever mix you like, although I think I would skip something with peanuts. The craisins were an unintentional bonus.  I had a few leftover from making the turkey chipotle enchilada recipe from a couple of weeks ago, and had thrown them in the bag of nuts.  I forgot that when I mixed them into the topping, but it turned out to be a good “accident.”

So, while this may look like a vegetable, it’s definitely a dessert in a clever vegetable disguise! In fact, I’m half-tempted to put it in the dessert category instead of as a side dish. Serve it with a simple piece of roast chicken or a pork chop. I baked a chicken thigh with some olive oil, oregano, a bit of garlic, and salt and pepper.




Butternut Squash with Brown Sugar and Vanilla Substitutions and Variations

  • Don’t have mixed nuts?  Try just plain walnuts or pecans instead
  • Use maple syrup instead of brown sugar
  • Toast the nuts first
  • Buy some puff pastry and spoon the squash into it—voilà butternut squash tart!

More Butternut Squash Recipes

curried butternut squash soup with applesCurried Butternut Squash Soup with Apples

Warm/spicy and sweet all at the same time. This soup is great for chilly days (or pantry cooking).

 

butternut squash cream sauce pastaButternut Squash Cream Sauce Recipe for One Person

Add sage and a touch of cream and you get a perfect pasta sauce. It’s rich, creamy and makes a nice change from the usual humdrum tomato sauce.

 

roasted cinnamon nutmeg butternut squashRoasted Cinnamon Nutmeg Butternut Squash

A classic combination that’s great with a simple main dish, like roast chicken.

 

 




One Pot Polish Sausage and Cabbage with Potatoes

Fall has finally shown up (at least briefly), so it’s time for hearty comfort food.  This Polish sausage and cabbage with potatoes recipe is both easy to make and filling.  It’s a great meal for a chilly autumn day.  There are only a few basic, everyday ingredients, but it still manages to be packed with flavor from rich sausage,  braised cabbage, buttery Yukon Gold potato, and sweet carrot.

And, as a bonus, you get your entire dinner cooked while only using a single pot. As far as I’m concerned, less cleaning and washing up is always a good thing.

The technique is really simple, and there’s not a lot of fiddling.  Basically, all you have to do to get a delicious dinner is to slice up and brown the sausage, add the veggies and broth, and then let the whole thing simmer slowly in the pot.

It takes less than an hour to make and you don’t have to stand over a hot stove while your dinner cooks.  You can go do something else instead.  For instance, you can pour yourself a glass of red wine and unwind from a long day or make a mug of hot, spiced apple cider.

It’s not fancy, or fussy, just good plain hearty food.

I used a Yukon gold potato, because they have a richer, more buttery flavor.  However, an Eastern potato (or white potato) will work too.  Avoid Russet (Idaho) potatoes, as they are best for baking (OK, I avoid them anyway because I don’t like them; they’re too floury).




Polish Sausage and Cabbage with Potatoes Substitutions and Variations

  • Try using bacon instead of the sausage
  • Swap the sliced potatoes for 4 oz of egg noodles (cook them separately, then add them at the end and toss everything together)
  • Season the dish with some paprika
  • If you’re out of chicken broth, you can use water instead
  • Add some cut up bell pepper

More Sausage and Cabbage Recipes

unstuffed cabbage roll recipeSmall Batch Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls Recipe

Stuffed cabbage is delicious. But making all those individual rolls is a pain. So skip the rolls. Layer it all (like lasagne) instead.

 

kielbasa with sauerkraut and applesKielbasa with Sauerkraut and Apples

Sausage, sauerkraut, and apples complement each other beautifully and the honey mustard sauce adds a delightful sweet tangy flavor.  This is pantry-friendly and only requires one pot.

bibimbap rice bowlBibimbap Rice Bowl with Meat and Vegetables

A full meal in one little bowl. It’s got layers of vibrant veggies, a spicy sauce, and ground meat, all topped with a single fried egg.




Rosemary Olive Oil Broiled Eggplant

I first learned to make this eggplant dish when I was visiting a cousin in Boston. He was living in a rambling house with lots of roomies and a student budget.  Creativity was important!  This meltingly tender broiled eggplant infused with olive oil and flecked with fresh rosemary takes full advantage of seasonal produce.  Just grab some of the fresh eggplants popping up in your local farmer’s market and make this super simple recipe.

Since this recipe is made nearly entirely with pantry staples, all you have to buy is the eggplant.  Fresher eggplants are less bitter than their out-of-season cousins and the standard dark, nearly black supermarket offerings. And, the farmer’s market should have a much wider selection.  I used Graffiti eggplant (streaky purple), but white eggplant, or fairy eggplant (the smaller streaky variety, which is particularly tender) works just as well.

Look for smaller eggplants with firm skin.  A wrinkled eggplant is an old eggplant.  The smaller ones are sweeter too.  Check the stem to make sure it’s fresh; it should be free of mold or mushiness.  An eggplant that’s heavy for its size is better.  Lighter ones are likely to be hollow and less fleshy (so less to eat).

There’s some slightly inaccurate folk wisdom about “male” and “female” eggplants, with males having fewer seeds. The flowers are both male and female, but the fruit isn’t. However, if you want fewer seeds, check the bottom of the eggplant.  There’s an indentation which is sometimes oval and sometimes round. Eggplants with an oval indentation seem to have fewer seeds than the round ones.  So pick the oval eggplant (because you want fruit, not seeds).




Rosemary Olive Oil Broiled Eggplant Substitutions and Variations

  • If you can plan ahead, pour a small quantity of olive oil into a separate, sealed jar.  Add a sprig of rosemary and let it sit.  The flavor will infuse into the oil
  • Add some zucchini to the eggplant
  • Or, put in a few slices of onion
  • Try some Romano or Manchego cheese instead of the Parmesan

More Eggplant Recipes

Sichuan Chinese Chicken and Eggplant with Garlic Sauce

Pasta alla Norma with Eggplant

Single Serving Eggplant Parmesan Recipe

Vegetarian Eggplant Sandwich for One Person




Cold Leftover Steak Salad with Goat Cheese and Red Wine Vinaigrette

Ever get stumped by what to do with leftover steak?  Steaks aren’t sold for one person, generally. The portions are too big!  It’s not enough for another steak dinner, and too much to toss without guilt.  You could make a steak sandwich, or try something a bit different and toss it into a steak salad.

Add some veggies, goat cheese, and a homemade red wine vinaigrette and you’ve got a delicious dinner without any cooking.  Cold leftover steak salad is the perfect solution for late summer  or busy days when the thought of turning on the stove is too much to bear.

This recipe is inspired by a steak salad on Food Network.  I liked the basic idea, but wasn’t about to buy three kinds of greens, extra red onions, or bleu cheese (since bleu cheese and I don’t get along).  I used just one kind of lettuce (green leaf) instead and swapped the bleu cheese for herbed goat cheese.

This is best with leftover steak (since it’s already cold), but you can pan fry your steak and let it rest (or chill in the fridge) while you do something else. Use the rest for a steak sandwich or in a stir fry.




 

Cold Leftover Steak Salad Substitutions and Variations

  • Add a bit of Dijon mustard to the vinaigrette
  • Go for the bleu cheese if you like it
  • Use a handful of mixed greens (or make the entire salad with them)
  • Add half a sliced scallion
  • Saute some shallots and add them to the dressing

More Entree Salad Recipes

Chicken Caprese Salad Panini Sandwichchicken caprese salad panini

Grilled to a deep golden brown crispness, stuffed with gooey melted cheese, sweet tomatoes, and basil.  Comfort food for grownups.

 

leftover roast lamb eggplant spinach saladLeftover Roast Lamb Eggplant and Spinach Salad

Rich lamb, meltingly soft eggplant, and a garlicky aioli sauce. It’s an entire meal in a single bowl. Use leftover roast lamb breast, or make it with a lamb chop.

 

mixed greens egg potato chicken saladMixed Greens Egg Potato and Chicken Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette

A fresh take on an entree salad, with hard boiled egg, potatoes, and a zippy vinaigrette. Use leftover or rotisserie chicken. Mix it all together and poof you have lunch (or dinner).




Linguine with Garlic and Olive Oil

This recipe makes me smile whenever I make it.  You may wonder what’s so funny about linguine with garlic and olive oil?  Nothing really, it just reminds me of a friend.

This friend does not cook. At all.  I don’t think she’s ever used her oven.  I was at her house one day and I was hungry. Nobody else wanted anything, so I started poking around in her fridge and cupboards (with permission).

I found some dried pasta, bouillon cubes, some olive oil, and a can of parmesan cheese. So, I made the “shelf stable” version of this recipe.  They all looked at me as if I had walked on water or parted the seas!

It is, of course, much better if you have higher quality ingredients at hand.  Here at home, I used fresh linguine, homemade chicken broth, and freshly grated parmesan cheese, along with high quality olive oil.

You can do it that way, the shelf stable way, or somewhere in-between.  I won’t judge.

 


Substitutions and Variations for Linguine with Garlic and Olive Oil

  • Make it more substantial with some cooked chicken or cooked shrimp
  • Top it with some red pepper flakes
  • Add a bit of lemon zest
  • Use some anchovies (if you like them)
  • Top with freshly toasted breadcrumbs

 

More Pasta Recipes

pasta olives tomatoes capersPasta with Olives Tomatoes and Capers or Puttanesca

Want food fast? Just cook some pasta and put together a quick sauce from sweet tomatoes, zesty garlic, and salty olives.

 

white ragu papardelleWhite Ragu Pappardelle Pasta for One

Earthy porcini mushrooms, sausage, beef, white wine, and a bit of cream, all simmered gently and served with hearty fresh pasta.  Sooo good, you may never want the usual red sauce again.

spaghetti with green olives and lemon pankoSpaghetti with Green Olives and Lemon Panko

A burst of bright flavor from nutty olives, a squeeze of fresh lemon, and golden friend panko.  A wonderful, and easy summer treat.

 

tomato artichoke pasta saucePasta with Tomato Artichoke Sauce Recipe

Rich, thick, and pantry friendly too with canned tomatoes, dried herbs, and a jar of artichokes.  Start the sauce simmering, make the pasta and you’re ready to eat in half an hour.

 




Sauteed Garlic Parmesan Spinach

In my head, this was Roman spinach.  Then I looked and realized that was a completely different recipe (with pine nuts and raisins). I was wrong about the Roman part, but at least sauteed garlic parmesan spinach is really Italian.

The recipe that inspired this called for blanching and baking the spinach and then broiling everything.  That was too much bother!  I’ve adapted it to make it simpler and easier.

This way, it doesn’t take a lot of time or effort to prepare.  It will go nicely, I think, with a simple pan fried fish, or grilled fish. Or, serve it with a steak.

Unlike the Roman spinach (which would have required a trip to get pine nuts), this sauteed spinach is made from everyday ingredients you probably already have at home.  No special shopping trip needed!

If you want, you can add additional ingredients to the basic recipe (see the substitutions and variations section below for more ideas).




 

Substitutions and Variations for Sautéed Garlic Parmesan Spinach

  •  add a sliced mushroom or two (put that in before the spinach)
  • try some sautéed onions
  • add this recipe to some scrambled eggs and make it a main course for breakfast, lunch, or brunch
  • roast the garlic first
  • add some chopped fresh cherry tomatoes just before serving

More Spinach Recipes

Bacon Spinach Tomato Aioli Sandwich Recipe

Spinach and Egg Frittata for One Person

Spinach and Feta Cheese Omelette

Shakshouka for One

 




Easy Mediterranean Fish Stew

There are probably hundreds or thousands of variations of this easy Mediterranean fish stew. In San Francisco, they add shellfish and clam juice or fish stock and call it cioppino.  Sicilians make it with sea bass or orange roughy.  The Greeks use dill and potatoes, while the Portuguese add sausage.

This particular version has tomatoes, potatoes, and some citrus zest.  I adapted it from a New York Times recipe (which made a big pot of stew, enough for 6 people, and included the dreaded anchovies).  I also threw in some mushrooms (mostly because I wanted to use them up).  There’s no shellfish, and I made it with cod (which is more sustainable and budget-friendly than orange roughy or sea bass). I also swapped the chopped tomatoes they called for with tomato puree (that’s what I had, and it cooks faster).

There are two nice things about this recipe.  The first is that it’s super-easy to make.  Just make the stew, and then add the fish at the very end. Don’t overcook it!

The second is that you can make it in advance up to the point where you add the fish.  When you’re ready to eat, reheat the stew and add the fish once it’s hot.




Substitutions and Variations for Easy Mediterranean Fish Stew

  • Replace the water with fish stock, clam juice, or white wine
  • Add some capers
  • Double the garlic and add some pepperoncini (Italian hot peppers)
  • Vary the fish by adding some seafood such as clams, mussels, or shrimp
  • Make it Portuguese style with chicken broth (as the liquid), green bell pepper, potatoes, and sausage

More Mediterranean and Fish Recipes

Greek Fish with Lemon and Tomatoes

Pan Fried Tilapia with Lemon Butter Sauce

Salmon with Greek Yogurt Dill Sauce

 




Fried Egg Burrito

Fridays are tricky. Sometimes, I want to make a big feast because the week is over.  Other times, I just want something quick and easy so I can relax. This fried egg burrito recipe is perfect for the days when I’m leaning toward the quick and easy side. That’s why I have a list of “15 minute meals” on the blog.

Fried egg burritos are also versatile. You can have them for breakfast, lunch, or dinner (make two).  And, they’re ready in about 10 minutes.  So, they’re not only delicious and easy, they’re dinner in less than 15 minutes. It’s faster (and tastier) than takeout. Plus, since you made it yourself, you know exactly what’s in it.




I added some Monterey Jack cheese to the eggs, then tossed in a bit of jalapeño pepper and topped that with some salsa and sour cream to serve.  You can use pepper jack cheese or cheddar or any other mild cheese you like.

Substitutions and Variations for Fried Egg Burrito

Like any other burrito, this is endlessly customizable.

  • add some canned beans or refried beans
  • cook up some chorizo sausage
  • if you like it less hot, use bell pepper instead of the jalapeño
  • add a spoonful of chipotle peppers
  • top with guacamole

More Egg Recipes

eggs with spinach and chili pepperEggs with Spinach and Chili Peppers

Great for a light meal, brunch, or breakfast. Only one skillet needed, and you get a healthy dose of greens too.

 

cherry tomato basil frittataCherry Tomato Basil Frittata

Just four basic ingredients and you’ve got breakfast (or a light lunch). Or, add spinach, mushrooms, or more veggies to make a bigger meal.

 

egg chili cheese burritoEgg Chili Cheese Burrito Recipe

Another easy egg dish. This one is a wrap, with refried beans and scallions. It’s a bit heartier, but still super-easy and fast (with canned or pre-cooked beans).

 

shakshouka for oneShakshouka for One

Popular all over the Middle East and Mediterranean, shakshouka is great for lunch or brunch. Or add bread (to scoop up the sauce) and make it dinner.  There are lots of variations, but I added my own spin with some spinach.

 




Indian Fish Fillet in Yogurt Sauce

This week’s recipe was going to be something else, but then I realized I hadn’t defrosted it.  Oops. No matter, this  Indian fish fillet in yogurt sauce recipe will do quite nicely instead.  You’ll just have to wait for the other recipe!

This is adapted from The Wednesday Chef , who in turn adapted it from Madhur Joffrey.  Since the amounts are smaller, you don’t have to heat up the oven. You can make this in the toaster oven instead. It heats up more quickly and it’s easier to clean too!

All you have to do is lightly fry some onions, pour them onto a tray, season and mix the yogurt, and then pour all of that over the fish.

It’s maybe ten minutes of prep, and 20 minutes of baking.  While it bakes, pour yourself a glass of wine or a beer or make some rice to go with it. Or both.

You end up with a rich, creamy sauce that tastes indulgent (but isn’t, since it’s yogurt, not cream).   So no need to feel guilty.

The garam masala, ginger, and cumin add a bit of bite, but not too much (unless you want it spicier, of course). It’s pretty easy and approachable for Indian food.




Substitutions and Variations for Indian Fish Fillet in Yogurt Sauce

  • Add some curry to the sauce for more kick
  • Try pan frying the fish (about three-five minutes per side); add the yogurt sauce at the end, off the heat so it doesn’t curdle
  • Add half a hot chile pepper

More Fish Recipes

easy canned tuna curryEasy Canned Tuna Curry

Turn a can of tuna into a full meal. Just add some pantry staples, heat it all up and you’re ready to eat in just a few minutes.

 

greek fish with lemon and tomatoesGreek Fish with Lemon and Tomatoes

Bring the flavors of the Mediterranean to your dinner plate with this quick, single pan fish recipe. Make a simple marinade, let it sit, and then pan fry.

 

pan-fried tilapia with lemon butter saucePan Fried Tilapia with Lemon Butter Sauce

A splash of citrus, a bit of mustard for bite, and a sprinkle of rosemary add a lot of flavor without much effort.

 

easy mediterranean fish stewEasy Mediterranean Fish Stew

Bring the warmth and sunshine of the Mediterranean to your dinner table, even on a cloudy spring day. This dish is full of flavor from fish, tomatoes, garlic, and citrus.

 

 




Sloppy Joe Recipe for One Person

Have you ever gotten a a mad, out-of-blue craving for something?  A meal or a treat you just have to have?  This week, I had this crazy yen for Sloppy’s Joe’s. Unfortunately, most of the recipes I found were too big and had too much tomato sauce.  I wanted “sloppy joe’s” not “bathe in tomato sauce joes.” And, many of the recipes were also too bland. The only sloppy joe recipe for one person that I found was made with tofu. Nope.

Since I’d been feeling ambitious earlier in the week, I had fresh grass-fed beef on hand, and even homemade buns. If you want to make your own buns, try the recipe at King Arthur Flour’s website.

In order to boost the flavor, I added a bit of sriracha to the sauce and increased the Worcestershire sauce slightly.

The recipe includes two different amounts for the ketchup and the tomato sauce, so you can adjust the sauce/beef ratio to your own preferences.

Yes, it was messy. But it was also really good! I have put this under “dinner,” but really you could make it for a weekend lunch too, since it’s easy.




Sloppy Joe Recipe Substitutions and Variations

  • Make it with ground turkey or chicken instead of beef
  • Kick up the heat with chili garlic sauce instead of sriracha
  • Try half a chopped jalapeño pepper or red pepper flakes
  • Add some chili powder and mustard, then balance that with a bit of brown sugar

Grain Finished or Grass Fed Ground Beef

If you’re worried about who is packing your meat, and where it’s coming from, buy directly from the people who raise it.  It does cost a bit more, but it tastes better, it’s better for you, and you get peace of mind.

More Ground Beef Recipes for One Person

spicy stovetop chili recipeSmall Batch Spicy Stovetop Chili Recipe

Take your chili up a notch with a surprise ingredient (sriracha). Sure it may sound odd, but Asia got the peppers from South America, so it works out.  A small batch, so you’re not overwhelmed by chili.

compound butter cheeseburgerCheeseburger with Compound Butter

Adding butter (and some herbs) pops the flavor of your burger and also keeps it moist and juicy.

 

easy italian wedding soupEasy Italian Wedding Soup

Delicious soup in minutes! Just dump, heat, and eat. Make your own meatballs (see below), or use frozen (Trader Joe’s are great).

 

 

easy italian meatball recipeItalian Meatball Recipe for One

A mini meatball recipe that’s just enough for one.  Perfect for spaghetti and meatballs or the Italian wedding soup just above.