My poor mom has had a whirlwind of a summer, mostly due to all things centered around college. I have been feeling a bit guilty lately about, one, leaving her (what will she ever do without me?) and, two, the physical not to mention financial expenses that my recent life is costing. On a windy day last week, she was stuck at work late in the afternoon. With nothing else to do, I decided to help her out and make dinner.
Let me preface this by saying that I normally do not cook. Yes, I bake muffins and cookies, and I make pancakes in the morning. But put me in front of a large pot with spices and various other ingredients in front of me, and I am a deer caught in headlights.
That being said, the relative success of this dinner was a great accomplishment.
I started out with what I saw glaring out at me from the pantry and refrigerator: a lonely butternut squash and a large container of cottage cheese. I had found the muffin recipe on 101 Cookbooks a few weeks back, and this felt like the perfect evening to try it out. What to do with the squash took a little while longer to figure out (I am a baker – I follow directions, I do not think out of the box). I finally resorted to our family standby – Ina Garten’s Back to Basics Cookbook. Her recipes are fail proof, and as someone with a very high possibility of failure rate, I decided Ina was the safest route to go.
I began with the muffins so that once the squash was finished, everything would be ready to go for the meal. They are very high in protein and tasted similar to a mini quiche.
Savory Cottage Cheese Muffins
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks
- 1 cup plain cottage cheese
- 3/4 cup parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup flour (I used whole wheat)
- 1 cup almond flour (you can make this by grinding almonds finely in a food processor or Vitamix)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup basil, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup water
- 4 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/2 tsp salt
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line muffin pan with paper baking cups, or if you were like me and had none, brush the bottoms of the cups with olive oil or butter.
2. Put the cottage cheese into a bowl with all but 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese, the flour, ground almonds, baking powder, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, and salt. Mix well.
3. Add water and eggs and mix again.
3. Fill muffin cups 3/4 of the way full and then scatter remaining Parmesan cheese over the batter.
4. Bake for 20-25 minutes (the original recipe recommended 30-35 minutes, but I think mine should have been done at 20). Take them out once the batter is set, risen, and slightly golden. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Warm Cider Vinagrette
adapted from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics
- 1 (1 1/2 pound) butternut squash, peeled and 3/4-inch diced (I highly doubt I was that precise)
- Good olive oil (Not mediocre, not great, good.)
- 1 tbsp pure maple syrup
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper
- 3 tbsp dried cranberries
- 3/4 cup apple juice
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp minced spring onions
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 4 oz baby arugala, washed and spun dry
- 1/2 cup pecan halves, toasted
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees (it’s already there!)
2. If you haven’t already done so, peel the squash and slice it into cubes.
*Note: Peeling a butternut squash a very difficult task. Trader Joes sometimes has pre-cut butternut squash; this is what I will be using next time.
3. Place squash on a sheet pan. Add 2 tbsp olive oil, the maple syrup, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper and toss.
4. Roast the squash for 15 minutes, turning once, until tender.
5. While the squash is roasting, combine the apple juice, vinegar, and shallots in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes, under the liquid is reduced to approx. 1/4 cup. Off the heat, whisk in mustard, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper.
6. Place the arugala in a large salad bowl and add the roasted squash, the pecans, and cranberries. Spoon just enough vinaigrette over the salad to moisten, and toss well. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve immediately.
Even my sister ate all of her “mysterious orange lumps”. There were no leftovers to speak of.