This week, I am thankful for a partner who possesses a green thumb and enjoys gardening. While I embrace the other “Methow Valleyisms:” — I drive a Subaru, drink from a Blue Star coffee mug, and wear fleece covered in dog hair — I’m not talented at gardening.
What I am good at is cooking up and devouring all the garden bounty that lasts through the winter months. Here are a few of my favorite recipes for a colorful holiday meal using garden veggies from the pantry.
Roasted butternut squash mixed with garlic-sautéed kale is one of our favorite colorful winter dishes. Begin by peeling and dicing a large butternut squash into 1-inch square pieces. Toss the cut-up squash with olive oil and your favorite spice mix. I like to use Hannah’s Popcorn Seasoning — found next to the popcorn at Hank’s Harvest Foods. Hannah is the beautiful red-haired lady at the Methow Valley Farmers market who serves up the yummy carrot juice. The popcorn seasoning mix is curry, cumin, chili powder, garlic, cilantro, paprika, cayenne and nutritional yeast. It adds a delightful punch to roasted veggies. After oiling and seasoning the squash, roast in oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes.
While the squash roasts, destem the kale and tear into bite-size pieces. Rinse, but do not shake off the water. Toss the wet leaves into a hot skillet and cover to steam for about 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, use a spatula to move the kale to the sides of the pan, leaving a bare center in the middle of the pan. Pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil into the center of pan and warm over low heat. Finely mince two large cloves of garlic, and gently warm the garlic in the oil, stirring often for 2 minutes, and being careful to not burn the garlic. When the oil is infused with the flavor of the garlic, stir in the kale to coat the leaves. Toss in a handful of dried cranberries and return lid to pan to continue to steam the mixture for 2-3 minutes over low heat. Remove roasted butternut squash from oven, and toss with kale mixture.
My favorite chocolate cake this time year is spiced with cinnamon and chili powder, and moistened with zucchini and apples. Start by peeling and coring three small tart apples — enough for about a cup of applesauce. Trim ends of two medium-sized zucchini — or, if you are like me, remove 2 cups of shredded zucchini from the freezer. Place zucchini and apples in food processer along with ¾ cup of vanilla yogurt and three eggs, process until well mixed. If I’m crunched for time, I open up a box of Betty Crocker Super Moist Chocolate cake mix and whisk in 2 teaspoons cinnamon and 1 teaspoon chili powder before combing the wet and dry ingredients.
If you prefer completely from scratch, whisk together 2 cups sugar, 1 ¾ cup flour, ¾ cup baking cocoa, 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder, 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda and 1 teaspoon salt. To this mixture, add the cinnamon and chili powder before combining with the wet ingredients. Lightly coat the bottom only of a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray. Fill with cake mixture, and bake in a preheated oven at 350-degree Fahrenheit for 40 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
I hope you all have a wonderful long weekend doing whatever you need to do to feel healthy, happy, and at peace. I’m still looking for donations of strings of lights to decorate the gardens at the Methow Valley Interpretive Center for the holiday season. Please call or email me, 341-4617 or firstname.lastname@example.org.