Archive for Recipes

Sweeeeeet Squash, an explaination, and an anniversary…

I know. I totally suck. I haven’t posted since Halloween. I’m sure my regular readers are wondering what’s up. So I’ll tell ya. I started my new job back in September and it’s going good but there is a TON of work and I am often working and/or on the weekend so I barely have time to breathe, let alone write. But I was feeling guilty about my little blog, especially considering this month The Average Cook celebrates it’s second birthday. That’s right, my poor, little neglected baby is two years old. Wow. That’s a lot of posts. And readers. And terrible pictures!! In fact, the other day I had my highest views for any given day! I was just short of 600 views for one day!!! Pretty cool. Thanks to all of my readers, new and old, for reading and posting.

Now onto the food….I thought this would be a good recipe for you all for Turkey Day, I mean Thanksgiving!! I love all sorts of squash, but acorn squash is extra special because you can almost make a dessert out of it! This is a nice little, easy Fall dish. Hope you like it.

Roasted Sweet Acorn Squash

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice acorn squash in half and place on roasting sheet coated with coating spray. Also, coast squash with spray. Bake for about 45 minutes to one hour until squash is soft. In the last five minutes, add 1/2 tsp. butter, 1/2 tsp. brown sugar, 1 tsp. raisins or cranberries, and 1/2 tsp. sliver almonds or pecans to each half. Make one half squash for for each person.



Comments (4)


This year I’ve become completely addicted to the Farmer’s Markets near me. There is one in Keyport every Thursday and if I miss that one, there’s another one on Friday in Atlantic Highlands. I seriously do not know how I will survive past October when both of the Farmer’s Markets end. My favorite veggie/fruit vendor has been Hauser Farms from Old Bridge. They have a large variety of selections at extremely reasonable prices. Their produce is sooo good my two favorite restaurants in the area (Trinity and Drew’s) are regular customers (yeah, so much so, that sometimes they buy up EVERYTHING before I get there!!!).

A few weeks back I was excited to see the multi-colored peppers in baskets at the Farmer’s Market. They were so picturesque I bought up a few of each – red, yellow, orange. When life hands you peppers, you make peperonata. Peperonata is basically stewed peppers, slowly cooked with tomatoes, garlic, onions, basil, etc.  Peperonata takes great alone or served over pasta (or whole wheat rigatoni in my case). It’s a great alternative as a pasta topping to your basic tomato sauce.

This recipe is from one of my very first cookbooks, The Italian Cooking Encyclopedia. My aunt gave it to me years ago a a gift and it’s a great resource for Italian cooking.What I always enjoy is how the recipes are labeled. The are in English and off to the side is the Italian word for that particular recipe. Even now when I look up a recipe I find it amusing that I am more familiar with the Italian phrase for the recipe versus the English version (like peperonata labeled stewed peppers).

Overall rating – 5 stars

Peperonata (aka Stewed Peppers)

4-5 very ripe peppers, preferably red or yellow

4 T olive oil

2 medium onions, thinly sliced

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

12 oz plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

salt and fresh pepper

a few fresh basil leaves

1. Wash peppers and cut into quarters, removing stems and seeds. Slice into thin strips.

2. In a large heavy saucepan, heat olive and saute onions until soft, add peppers and cook about 8 minutes until soft.

3. Stir in garlic and tomatoes, cover and cook 25 minutes over moderate heat. Season and tear basil leaves into pan. Serve  hot or cold.

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Carmelitas…Never heard of them? Me either until I saw the delicious pictures over at Lisa is Cooking blog. Lisa found the recipe in an issue of Food & Wine. These bar cookies feature chocolate, pecans and dulce de leche. I decided to make these for a picnic I had to go and I always like to bring some sweets. Everyone seemed to enjoy them and I will say they were good but when I look at Lisa’s they look a helluva lot better than mine. They were very heavy and dense. I probably wouldn’t make them again. The oats flavor was just too strong for me. But overall, not bad. Here’s the link to the recipe.

Overall rating – 3 stars

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Sweet Corn Succotash

So I’ve become a bit of a farmer’s market addict this summer. If I don’t make it to my local market in Keyport, NJ every Thursday, I’m thrown off. Luckily, the same vendors all attend another farmer’s market the next day in another nearby town, Atlantic Highlands. I’ve found myself trying lots of new fruits and vegetables this year as the selection is vast and economically fantastic. Everything I’ve bought over the last couple of months was wonderful. One of the new items I’ve tried on for size was okra. Now I’ve eaten okra at restaurants but I’ve never bought or prepared it myself. I couldn’t pass it up one day as it was a bagful for $1.00! I just so happened to notice that my current issue of Food & Wine I had lying around had a recipe with okra in it. Perfect!  I found this delicious recipe in the August 2008 issue of Food & Wine. In addition to the okra, it also made use of the fabulous sweet corn and beautiful heirloom tomatoes I purchased at the farmer’s market. The only changes I made to this were using frozen peas instead of fresh (just couldn’t find them) and Canadian bacon instead of regular (health-conscious choice). I absolutely loved this recipe! What a great, quick and easy summer side dish. I enjoyed it so much I just picked up some more corn and okra yesterday at my farmer’s market!

Overall rating – 5 stars

Sweet Corn Succotash

Birmingham, Alabama, chef Chris Hastings of Hot and Hot Fish Club uses fresh field peas, like black-eyed peas, in his succotash, but green peas are nicely sweet.
  • 2 cups fresh green peas
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 thick slice of bacon, finely diced
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 pound okra, sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 3 medium tomatoes—peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 3 ears of corn, kernels cut off
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup slivered basil leaves
  1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the peas until tender, 5 minutes. Drain, reserving 3/4 cup of the cooking liquid.
  2. In a deep skillet, heat the oil. Add the bacon and cook over moderately high heat, until browned. Add the onion and cook until just softened. Add the okra and cook for 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes and corn and cook until the tomatoes break down. Add the peas with the cooking liquid and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 2 minutes. Stir in the butter and basil; serve.

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Fava Beans, Broccoli and Tomatoes with Pesto and Pasta

Sorry for the lack of posting. A lot has been going on lately that has deterred from my writing here. I hope you, my dear readers, will forgive me. First of all, the very good news. I got a new job. Finally. I’ve been unhappy since last April when I was laid off from my corporate communications job that I loved at a company I loved. I spent a year doing financial editing which just wasn’t my thing. I’m happy to say I’ve found a job working back in my field.

Secondly, I had to give up my ballroom dance instructor job. I just couldn’t get there three nights a week anymore and quite frankly, I wasn’t enjoying teaching as much as I enjoyed being a student. And lastly, I took on a few, heavy duty volunteer positions with my sorority, including writing for our national magazine. So my priorities haven’t been focused much on the blog and I apologize. I have been thinking about the blog though. I’m still cooking and taking pictures, I just need to get around to posting!

So, because of all of the craziness lately, finding quick meals like this one are awesome. The inspiration for this meal came from this recipe from the August 2008 issue of Cooking Light. I had to make a lot of changes to make this work because of my supplies and because I felt like it. So there. Haha.  Here’s what I had to change or add:

*I only had about a cup and a half of fava beans (frozen), so I added some fresh broccoli from my local farmer’s market.

*I did not have enough basil (my mini-me garden is thriving EXCEPT my sad basil) to make my pesto so I substituted some parsley.

*I used whole wheat pasta since I don’t eat “white” pasta during the week.

*I used a can of diced tomatoes and some fresh heirlooms from the farmer’s market.

I also drizzled with some extra virgin olive oil before serving. This was a great meal, it was filling and the flavors all blended together beautifully. My only complaint was I wished I had made more pesto with it.
Overall rating – 4.5 stars

Fava Beans with Pesto and Cavatappi

Pasta is a dry ingredient that becomes water-rich when cooked. This vegetarian main dish shows off summer-fresh fava beans. If you can’t find them, substitute fresh lima beans or even thawed frozen edamame.

2 pounds unshelled fava beans (about 3 cups shelled)
1 cup fresh basil leaves (about 1 ounce)
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons extravirgin olive oil
1 pound uncooked cavatappi pasta
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese

1. Remove beans from pods; discard pods. Cook beans in boiling water 1 minute. Drain and rinse with cold water; drain. Remove outer skins from beans; discard skins.

2. Combine basil and next 5 ingredients (through garlic) in a food processor; process until smooth. With processor on, slowly pour oil through food chute, and process until well blended.

3. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain. Combine pasta and basil mixture in a large bowl, tossing to coat. Add beans and tomatoes, tossing to combine. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Yield:  8 servings (serving size: about 1 1/4 cups pasta and 1 tablespoon cheese)CALORIES 335 (24% from fat); FAT 8.9g (sat 1.9g,mono 4.7g,poly 1.5g); IRON 4.1mg; CHOLESTEROL 46mg; CALCIUM 116mg; CARBOHYDRATE 51.9g; SODIUM 411mg; PROTEIN 17.3g; FIBER 2.7g

Cooking Light, AUGUST 2008

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Herb-Stuffed Salmon

So this recipe originally called for a whole red snapper, but I was in the mood for salmon. Plus, I’ve never cooked a whole fish before and with my limited time and overall utter lack of motivation for cooking lately, I had no desire to work with a whole fish. This was a simple recipe and appeared to have great potential with all those fresh herbs (straight from my garden), but it failed to deliver on flavor. Perhaps it was because I used a large cut of salmon and rolled the herbs tightly into it. Or maybe because I was too lazy to go outside and turn on my grill so I baked it instead….Nonetheless, the herb flavor was practically indistinguishable. The fish was tender and moist but the herbs just stood out.

Overall rating – 1 stars

Salmon unrolled after cooking

Herb-Stuffed Red Snapper

Be careful when testing for doneness, as steam will escape from the foil when you open it. A whole fish makes a dramatic entrée, best served family-style so guests can help themselves to this succulent dish. If you have extra fresh herbs on hand, garnish the platter with them.

1 (4-pound) cleaned whole red snapper
Cooking spray
1 teaspoon extravirgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt, divided
4 lemon slices
4 large fresh basil leaves
3 parsley sprigs
3 mint sprigs
2 thyme sprigs
4 lemon wedges

1. Prepare grill.

2. Score fish by making 3 diagonal cuts on each side. Lay 1 (18 x 12–inch) sheet of foil flat on a work surface, and coat with cooking spray. Place fish in center of sheet; rub oil in fish cavity. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon salt in fish cavity; sprinkle remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt evenly on both sides of fish. Place lemon slices and next 4 ingredients (through thyme) in fish cavity. Wrap fish in foil, twisting ends to seal; place fish on grill rack. Grill 10 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork or until desired degree of doneness. Discard lemon slices and herbs. Serve fish with lemon wedges.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: about 4 ounces fish and 1 lemon wedge)CALORIES 241 (19% from fat); FAT 5.2g (sat 0.9g,mono 2.2g,poly 1.3g); IRON 0.5mg; CHOLESTEROL 80mg; CALCIUM 75mg; CARBOHYDRATE 1.7g; SODIUM 687mg; PROTEIN 44.9g; FIBER 0.5g

Cooking Light, JUNE 2008

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Herbed Turkey Burgers

Using ground turkey can be a challenge as it can very easily dry out during the cooking process and due to the low fat content (I use almost fat-free) it really needs help in the seasoning department. Because I’ve been blessed with my herbal garden (i.e. several herbs in pots on my deck), I have an abundance of various herbs I need to start using. I came up, with what I think, is a perfect turkey burger recipe – moist, flavorful, and tasty.

What strikes me as odd when I make turkey burgers as opposed to ground beef burgers is how different I treat them. With ground beef, I simply use sea salt and freshly ground pepper. That’s it. That’s all I believe a burger needs. But with the turkey burgers, they need a little (or maybe a lot of) help. Because the use of herbs in my burgers gave them some nice green coloring, I decided to carry that over into my side dish of whole wheat couscous and peas that I threw some butter, olive oil and Parmesan cheese in.

A few things I did different…I threw some horseradish cream in there for a little kick and I used a packet of instant oatmeal to bind the burgers (instead of breadcrumbs). The oatmeal is not even noticable in taste or view.

Overall ratings – Turkey burgers – 5 stars

Herbed Turkey Burgers

1 pound ground turkey breast

1 T. Dijon mustard

1 T. light mayo

1/2 T. horseradish cream

1 T. each of minced fresh parsley, rosemary, basil

1 egg

1 packet of instant oatmeal

Combine all in large bowl and gently mix. Using a non-stick skillet or grill, cook burgers about 7-8 minutes each side. Turkey burgers tend to take longer to cook than beef, so be sure they are done inside.

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