Three Winter Recipes

I haven’t posted any recipes lately, so today I thought I would share 3 winter recipes. All of these recipes feature seasonal produce grown locally here in Oregon and maybe where you’re from, too! All of them are simple and comforting. In the first two recipes, winter vegetables are the stars. Both are a great way to work more winter vegetables into your kids’ meals. And as you know, I’m a big fan of vegetables.

Stuffed Winter Squash

The pile of winter squash that we had held over from our fall harvest CSA share inspired this recipe. We were still working on eating up all the winter squash and root vegetables for several weeks after the CSA pickup ended, which was nice. This recipe used a couple of those squash, as well as being a very effective way to clean out our fridge. I looked at a few recipes online to get an idea of proportions for the filling, but in the end I just winged it, and it turned out great. Both Husband and BabyC enjoyed this dish, too.

This recipe makes a main dish for 4. Consider this recipe a jumping-off point and modify to fit your preferences and what you have on hand. I think you really can’t go wrong with this one. If your kids are old enough to help, you can even ask them to brainstorm what would go well in the squash and allow them to create their own recipe. Want to add some raisins? Apples? Chick peas? Cheerios? Sure, no problem!

Ingredients:

2 medium winter squash such as acorn or butternut

1/2 lb. mild ground sausage (or tofu or omit completely)

1 cup cooked grains (I used leftover whole wheat pearl couscous, but you could use rice, quinoa, couscous, or any other grain you have on hand)

A couple handfuls of mushrooms, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

1/2 onion, chopped

Whatever fresh (or dry) herbs you have on hand – I used a little parsley and thyme

5 dried apricots, chopped (I thought these weren’t really necessary, since the squash itself was so sweet, so use according to your own preference.)

1/2 cup grated cheese (I used romano.)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400F. Prepare a baking sheet by covering with aluminum foil and oiling lightly.

Slice the squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Place cut-side down on the baking sheet. Bake for 45-60 minutes, until the squash is tender.

Crappy phone photo. Trust me, the beauty is inside.

If necessary, cook the grains. Or dig around in your fridge until you find that dried-out leftover rice from 3 days ago.

Meanwhile, sauté the sausage and set aside. Then sauté the onions and mushrooms, adding the celery and herbs for just the last minute or so. In a large mixing bowl, combine the grains, sausage, vegetables, and dried apricots.

When the squash have cooked, allow them to cool just enough so that you can flip them over. Heap up the filling mixture inside the well of each squash and sprinkle with cheese. Return to the oven for about 10 minutes, long enough to melt the cheese and brown the top of the stuffing a bit. Serve with a spoon and dig away!

Root Vegetable Gratin

This is one of my favorite ways to use root vegetables. We got all kinds of parsnips, turnips, kohlrabi, and of course, potatoes, in our CSA share. I am always at a bit of a loss for what to do with turnips, so I love that I can incorporate them into this recipe. In the past, I’ve also thrown in sweet potatoes, which are generally a big hit with BabyC. This recipe came from the New York Times Recipe for Health series, so I’ll just link to it here:

NYT Root Vegetable Gratin

In a nutshell, you peel and slice a bunch of root veggies and toss them with some fresh thyme and salt and pepper. Arrange them in a baking dish and pour in 1.5 cups milk. Bake at 400F for 45 minutes. Then sprinkle on 3/4 cup Gruyère cheese (which is wonderful, but I’m sure you could substitute other good cheeses) and return to the oven for 30-45 minutes. You are supposed to press the veggies down with a wooden spoon every 15 minutes or so, but I found it logistically challenging to open the oven that often with a toddler in the kitchen, and it turned out fine. This recipe is incredibly simple, but it does take some time, so plan accordingly.

Fuyu Persimmon Cake

I saved the best for last. Our friends here in Eugene have a Fuyu persimmon tree in their yard. They have harvested hundreds of persimmons over the last month. They kept passing off sacks of them to us, saying they knew they could count on me to find something to do with them. I was flattered, but still, they sat on our counter for a week or so before I got serious about cooking something with them. I finally Googled “Fuyu persimmon recipe” and got lucky that this cake recipe was the first hit to pop up.

I didn’t know much about persimmons before our kitchen was overrun with them this fall. There are two types commonly available – the Fuyu and the Hachiya. Hachiya persimmons are eaten when very soft – the flesh scooped with a spoon or incorporated into baked goods like cookies and pudding cakes. Fuyu persimmons are eaten when firm. They are crisp like an apple and can be eaten in the same way, though the skin is a bit thicker. I’ve seen both types of persimmons in the grocery store here this season.

This Fuyu persimmon cake recipe was originally printed in 1978 in Sunset magazine. The San Diego County Farm Bureau has reprinted it on their website, but I also found a post by the Food Librarian about this recipe, complete with beautiful photographs. Visit either link for the complete recipe.

My photographs are not nearly as beautiful, but here are a couple…

This one illustrates the main ingredients of the cake and one of the reasons why it is so awesome. The cake includes a full 3 cups of chopped persimmons, plus 1 cup of walnuts and 3/4 cup golden raisins. This makes it fairly nutritious in my book, as far as cakes go.

I know what you’re thinking. Cakes aren’t meant to be nutritious. You’re right. Forget I mentioned it. What is more important is that it is really delicious. I made it twice in a week for dinner parties, and it was a big hit everywhere, with adults and kids alike. It also makes a pretty darn good breakfast.

The cake would have looked more attractive if I had mastered the glaze. The Food Librarian said she made hers with maple syrup and powdered sugar but didn’t give any more details. I added a little milk to mine because it was turning to brown maple candy, but as you can see, I think I overdid it on the milk. I didn’t let it bother me – I LOVE real maple syrup, and the maple flavor was a nice complement to the fruit and nuts.

This was also my first experience using a Bundt pan. I learned that if one is Googling “how to remove a cake from a Bundt pan,” it is already too late. I had to patch it together a bit, but that’s where the glaze came in handy. On my second try, I made sure to slather on the butter on every crevice of the pan and then dust with flour, and it came out with just a few imperfections.

I love this cake so much that I think I’ll make it a holiday tradition, since we could use a few traditions in our young family. Now that the Fuyu and I have been introduced, I’m willing to seek him out at grocery stores and farmers’ markets in the future. If you can’t find Fuyus where you live, I bet this recipe would work just as well with some good crisp apples.

What are your favorite ways to use winter fruits and vegetables?

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