Butternut squash and kale...I love the fall!

If you follow my facebook page you have seen me posting items about my slow cooker and kale experiments this week. You can click here to follow me on facebook :)

Fall is great for using butternut squash and kale (among other items I will highlight in future blogs). I tend to be a creature of habit and have basically been using butternut squash only for soup for the last few years. I decided to do something a little different this week and use it for other purposes, as a side dish with a meat and as part of a main course.

London Broil with Butternut Squash, Zucchini over Polenta

 Approx. 1.5 lb London Broil (mine was frozen and about 1.8 lbs)
1 small to medium size butternut squash, cubed
1 zucchini cubed
2 small onions sliced
2 cups beef broth
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1/8 cup soy sauce
1/8 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp sugar
pinch of sage
1-2 Tbsp Trader Joe's Everyday Seasoning (mix of salt, coriander, paprika, mustard seed, black peppercorns, onion, garlic, chili pepper)
1 bay leaf

2 cups polenta
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups milk
1/4 cup parmesan

Add London Broil, squash, zucchini, onions to slow cooker. Then add liquids and spices. Mix together. Cook on low for 5-7 hours.  About an hour before serving, make quick polenta. Bring chicken stock and milk to a slow boil and slowly add quick cooking polenta while whisking. When done, add parmesan and mix.

Serve with steak, squash + onions on top of polenta. 

Tip: For the kids, take some of the polenta and put it in a small brownie pan. Cool + then cut into fun shapes using a cookie cutter. Karina and the boys love this! Easy for toddlers to pick up.

Kale and Basil Pesto with Roasted Butternut squash  (Approx. 6 servings)
Based on this NY Times recipe.

About 1 1/2 pounds butternut squash, cubed.
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Lemon pepper
1 small bunch (about 1/2 pound) kale, center ribs removed
1 small bunch of fresh basil
1 box whole wheat penne

2 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1/4 - 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place squash on a baking sheet and toss with olive oil and season generously with salt and lemon pepper. Spread pieces into an even layer, making sure there is space between them. Roast, stirring squash pieces once or twice, until golden brown and tender, about 30-45 minutes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; have ready a bowl of ice water. Drop kale into boiling water and cook for 45 seconds. Use tongs or slotted spoon to transfer kale to ice water (slotted spoon worked better for me). Bring water in pot back to a boil, adding more if necessary so there is enough to cook pasta.

Drain kale well, then wrap tightly in a dry kitchen towel and squeeze thoroughly to remove any excess moisture. Roughly chop leaves. When water in pot comes back to a boil, cook pasta according to package directions.

In a food processor, pulse together kale, basil, garlic, salt, some lemon pepper and parmesan until mixture is smooth and salt has dissolved. With motor running, slowly drizzle in the oil until fully incorporated. Taste and add more salt and lemon pepper if necessary.

Drain pasta and reserving a little cooking water. Toss pasta with kale and basil pesto and some pasta cooking water if necessary to help it coat pasta. Add squash and mix. My 3 (almost 4 year old) mixed this for me and loved it as did my 16 month old boys. It was very messy, but they ate it all up.

I also made some kale chips, using this recipe: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/baked-kale-chips/detail.aspx, but I added some South African Smoke (a great spice blend from Trader Joe's) and salt. My husband loved them. The kids thought they were leaves they could crush :)

I hope to have some more posts in the next couple of weeks about the wonderful local fall produce and what I've made with it!

Check out this weekly column I recently discovered (Thank you Sally!) for some great ideas for local fall foods: http://westford.patch.com/columns/cooking-with-sally.

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