Tag Archives: Foodbuzz

Summer Squash Gratin

Summers in Texas yield quite a bit of squash as it is quite easy to grow in Texas.  Luckily, squash is so versatile that creating dishes from appetizers to desserts are well within its ability.  Zucchini squash bread is one of my favorites and makes great gifts.  For my Foodbuzz 24×24 menu, however, I wanted to stay on the savory side adding a bit of crunch.

This gratin makes the perfect side dish to almost any meal.  Each piece of squash in this dish is perfectly coated with a beautiful herb/oil/butter mixture.  I ate plenty of raw pieces and knew this dish would be fantastic.  These squash are garden fresh so we only had access to green, but feel free to use whatever type you get your hands on.  I’m sure a mix of yellow and green would be beautiful, as well.

This recipe is quite fool-proof yielding now one of my favorite summer side dishes.

Summer Squash Gratin
adapted from 101 Cookbooks

Ingredients:

  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 and 1/2 pounds of summer squash, cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, adjust to spice preference
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cups fresh bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Rub a 9×9 or equivalent baking dish with olive oil and lemon zest, and set aside.
  3. Place the squash slices into a colander and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp kosher salt, mix and set aside to let the water drain out.
  4. While the squash is “sweating,” make the oregano sauce.  You can make the sauce by pureeing oregano, parsley, garlic, salt, red pepper, and oil in a food processor.  Set aside.
  5. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Cook until the butter is lightly browned and fragrant.  Add the breadcrumbs into the browned butter.  Thoroughly coat.
  6. Transfer the squash to a large mixing bowl, oregano sauce, Parmesan cheese and half of the breadcrumbs.  Mix until every squash is coated.  Taste a couple to check for salt.
  7. Arrange the squash onto the zest-lined baking dish.  Top with the remaining half of the bread crumbs.  Bake for 40 minutes and the top should be browned and the squash cooked but not mushy.  Serve warm.
Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under Side Dish, Vegetarian

Local. Sustainable. Organic. A Garden-Inspired Menu

I have been very fortunate to come from and marry into a family interested in having their own vegetable gardens.  Every summer, I am pretty much guaranteed that my family CSA will supply me with organic vegetables once a week.  My in-laws, with acreage, have devoted a quarter of their land to harvesting their own vegetables.

The variety includes squash, potatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, okra, lettuce, spinach, chard, garlic, onion, cilantro, mint, tomatoes, green beans, pears, cantaloupe, chili peppers, and much more.  Needless to say that my grocery bill is substantially lower during this time of year.

Eating from the garden, in short, tastes better.  Much much better.  Fruits taste sweeter.  Vegetables taste fresher and just generally have more flavor.

As a gesture of gratitude, I cooked a meal to thank those that have given me more than just produce – but really a new way about thinking about cooking and quality of food.  This Foodbuzz 24×24 menu is comprised of local organic, sustainable or organic ingredients.

Menu:
Blueberry Mint Soda
Rosemary Bread
Deviled Eggs
Fried Green Tomatoes
Warm Goat Cheese Salad with Balsamic Reduction
Pan-seared Halibut over Wilted Spinach, Texas Portobello Mushrooms and Tomatoes with a Citrus Shallot Dressing
Squash Gratin
Peaches with Homemade Vanilla Bean Buttermilk Ice Cream

Served on a (fortunately) cooler Texas evening, we enjoyed this meal outside near the vegetable garden.  Served family style, this experience was more than a meal but a celebration of the people who dedicated themselves to feeding themselves and their families better.

When I first started grocery shopping and cooking for myself, thinking about where my food comes from was not even in my thought process.  In my mind, shopping at the big chain stores for cheaper blueberries and shopping at an organic store for duper expensive blueberries would yield the same result, the former just requiring an additional rinse under some cold water.

Well, times have changed and I’ve grown a bit wiser.  In this global world where any food is accessible year-round, I now focus on buying for the season rather than for the sale.  In the end, the product is not the same.

Instead of investing in produce that has traveled thousands of miles, I encourage you to check out your local farmer’s markets, join a CSA, buy seasonally, or grow a garden, no matter how small.  Growing and knowing the food you eat will change how you look at your plate.

7 Comments

Filed under Appetizers, Bread, Dinner, Uncategorized

Spinach Artichoke Dip

Spinach artichoke dip is pretty much a staple at most parties I attend.  I, however, didn’t jump on this dip-wagon until very recently – that is, when I played around with a recipe that has a lot of flavor.  (I can’t stand a bland, runny and stringy spinach artichoke dip.)

When Foodbuzz asked me to sample their new Classico Light Alfredo sauce (through the Tastemaker Program), I was thrilled – and around the time of my baby shower to boot!  I was thrilled to test out a lower-fat version of my favorite dip.  What’s not to love than a lighter version of our favorite recipes that doesn’t taste lighter?

I must say, that when it comes to Alfredo sauces, “light” usually denotes a product that tastes sweeter due to the lesser fat content and higher sugar content.  Lucky for me (and my guests), the Classico Light didn’t have this issue at all.

And, I know because I thoroughly enjoyed the leftovers – below is all that I had after the baby shower!

Spinach Artichoke Dip

Adapted from here

Ingredients:

–  1 jar of Classico Light Creamy Alfredo Sauce
–  1 tbsp granulated garlic
–  1 tsp red pepper flakes (adjust to taste)
–  1/2 (8 oz)  package of light cream cheese
–   1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, divided
–  1 tsp salt
–  1/2 tsp pepper
–  1 (14 oz) can of artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
–  1 (10 oz) frozen spinach, thawed and drained
–   1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, grated, divided

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 350F.
2.  Mix together all ingredients, except 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese and 1/4 cup of mozzarella cheese.
3.  Spread mixed ingredients into an 8×8 baking dish.
4.  Mix the remaining 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese and 1/4 cup of mozzarella cheese.
5.  Sprinkle on top of the mixed ingredients.
6.  Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
7.   Uncover and bake for 12-15 minutes until bubbly and slightly browned on top.

4 Comments

Filed under Appetizers, baking, garlic, Uncategorized, Vegetarian

And the {Real} Cheese Stands Alone

I was selected to participate in the Foodbuzz Tastemaker’s program for Sargento Natural Cheeses.  So, yesterday, I picked up some Sargento cheese (Sharp Cheddar and Colby-Pepperjack) and fixin’s, and headed over to my mom’s to participate in a little foodie fun.  And by fun – I mean eating.

It should come as no surprise I love cheese.  But, I’m not a cheese snob.  In fact, I’ll readily admit that my sister and I ate American processed cheese slices in our sandwiches until college-age and loved every minute of it.  It wasn’t until college and I did my own shopping and label reading that I switched over to other options – like cheddar, which I used to think American was – but is clearly not.

So, when Sargento asked us to make a comparison to American processed cheese, I was ready for this challenge.  My mom and sister didn’t know anything about it.  Binks, a cheese fan, was more than ready to participate in the middle of his P90X routine.

I introduce to you the most pathetic looking cheese plate I have ever seen.

Let me introduce the contenders.

In the top row we have our usual: (left to right) 1. Name Brand American Cheese (White), 2.  Grocery Store Brand American Cheese (White), and 3.  Name Brand American Cheese (Yellow).  I always ask what the difference is between white and yellow American and no deli person has ever given me an answer.  

In the bottom row we have the newbies: (left to right/two slices each) 1. Sargento Natural Sharp Cheddar and 2.  Sargento Natural Colby-Pepperjack.

On the side we have rice crackers and grapes (my pregnant-lady substitute for red wine – again, pathetic, excuse me).

We started in the order listed above and 3 out of 4 of us agreed on a winner between the top row and the bottom row.  This is what we had to say about each:

1.  Name Brand American (White)

Can I note that Binks bent this a lot and it took a while for it to actually break.  We had to actually rip it like cloth – not the nicest way to describe cheese.

–  Me:  Bland, but the taste is very familiar and almost nostalgic.
–  Binks:  There is no real taste.  I hate it.
–  Sister:  I like it.  Tastes creamy.  Oh wait, that’s just sweaty.  But, I like it.
–  Mom:  It’s okay, not great.

2.  Grocery Store American (White)

–  Me:  Has a stronger taste than No. 1 but still doesn’t taste like anything.
–  Binks:   It has a stronger taste, but still bland.
–  Sister:  It’s creamy/sweaty and stronger, which I like.  This tastes really familiar.
–  Mom:  It’s okay.  Not great.  Better than No. 1.

3.  Name Brand American (Yellow)

– Me:  Tastes just like No. 1
–  Binks:  Tastes like No. 1
–  Sister:  It’s sweaty and bland like No. 1
–  Mom:   The cheese is not good.  I don’t want to eat anymore cheese.

4.  Sargento Natural Sharp Cheddar

Notice the folding difference.

– Me:  It tastes like cheese.  Tastes like actual cheddar cheese.  Great texture.
–  Binks:  My favorite.  Tastes the best.
–  Sister:  I don’t know.  It has a sharp taste to it.  It tastes like something.  Binks:  Cheddar?  Sister:  Yeah!  It tastes like cheddar.
–  Mom:  I like it.

5.  Sargento Natural Colby-Pepperjack

–  Me:  Spicy and creamy – love it.
–  Binks:  I don’t usually like pepperjack but I could eat this one.
–  Sister:  It tastes like something.  Binks:  Cheese?  Sister:  Yeah, plus something.  Binks:  Pepper?  Sister:  Yeah!  It’s fresh tasting.
–  Mom:  This is my favorite.

Why did I tell you all of this other than to waste minutes from your life?  Well, let me tell you.  Binks and I were in complete agreement.  My mom was busy tasting and saying how she can’t eat anymore cheese to really be included in my serious count.  My sister threw the whole thing off.  She kept insisting on the American cheese.  I didn’t understand but I figured she’s entitled to her opinion.  She definitely didn’t get the foodie part of my dad.

Then, after a couple of hours, she comes to me and says:  “You know, the American cheese reminds me of school and all the sandwiches that were prepared for us by mom and dad.  I don’t think I generally like the taste as much as it reminds me of being a kid.  I could eat this (American cheese) all day mindlessly.  The others actually taste like something, which I’m not used to.

I would be lying if I didn’t have the look of “What the hell are you talking about?!” on your face.

Either way – she gave me some kind of conclusion, which is this:  A lot of times we eat just because we want to eat or are familiar with something, and sometimes we forget that food should taste like something natural in this world.

My poor sister – she needs some serious cheese education.  Because my friends, cheese should have a taste, right?!  It should taste sharp and like cheese – not a random taste with creamy (even ignoring the sweaty) as the only saving grace.

So, the results of this match:

Sargento Sharp Cheddar – total winner for everyday use.

Sargento Colby Pepperjack – my favorite for spicy snacking.

American – Total cheese fail for everyone except my sister, who didn’t know that cheese should taste like something.

Are you an American cheese fan?  Did you grow up with it?  Still eat it?  Have you made the switch? To what?

3 Comments

Filed under Appetizers, Uncategorized