Playing with Produce

I was excited for this homework assignment, since I am always interested in ways to incorporate new/more produce into my meal planning. The big question was which produce I wanted to use. After some consultation, I decided on artichokes and squash– both items that I enjoy eating but have little to no experience (aside from the rare stuffed acorn squash) with preparing. I went a little rogue in using “squash” so that I would have some flexibility in types of squash.

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One recipe was for a spaghetti squash dish that included artichokes. Another was for a butternut squash side dish that I served with a main dish including artichokes.

First, I made Crab-Stuffed Artichokes. The recipe can be found here:

I cut the recipe in half and am glad I did. Some things I learned, or was reminded, of in the process of preparing this recipe:

  1. Read the whole recipe. I might not have made it if I had read ahead and realized I had neither a melon-baller nor a Dutch oven in my kitchen. I made do, and it worked out okay, but it added to the already labor-intensive nature of the dish.
  2. Even though I cut the recipe in half, I would use the whole 8 oz. of crab meat if I were to make it again. The stuffing was good, but I thought the crab ratio could have been higher.
  3. Trim the spiky tops off the artichoke leaves. The recipe didn’t specify that, but it would have made the artichoke easier to work with and eat. Googling images turns up lots of stuffed artichoke recipes where the leaves have been trimmed.

I ate one of the stuffed artichokes and tossed the other in the freezer for a future meal.

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That was Friday night. On Saturday, I made Spinach Artichoke Spaghetti Squash Boats with Chicken. (I added mushrooms because I had some on hand to use up.)

Props to my mom, who suggested ahead of time that I ask someone in the produce department to cut the squash for me. Thanks to her and to a nice young man at Lunds & Byerlys, I was spared a huge headache and still have all my fingers.

This recipe had lots of steps but wasn’t necessarily difficult. It made a LOT of food– half of which is still in my refrigerator. The recipe could easily be a filling meal for four people. More if you have sides, salads, or other items. I will probably portion the leftovers accordingly and toss them in my freezer. (Sensing a theme here?)

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On Sunday, I made Butternut Squash Kugel. . .

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to serve as a side dish with Chicken in Artichoke Pan Sauce:

I used fresh squash but went the route of buying some that had already been peeled and cut. It was a huge time saver. I could have used frozen, as was called for in the recipe, but I felt like that would be a little too much corner-cutting. Plus, using fresh left me with some extra squash that can use in another recipe later this week.

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As with the previous meal, I added mushrooms to the chicken dish (saute with garlic and shallot– or, in my case, onion powder– at the beginning of the gravy making process). Also similar to the previous meal, I used jarred artichoke hearts. In looking for recipes, I noticed that most artichoke recipes called for artichokes to already be jarred or canned. Given my experience on Friday night, I can see why. Definitely easier to work with.

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This recipe was my favorite by far– including the kugel side dish. Of all the recipes I prepared over the weekend, it is the meal I will definitely be making again.

The challenge with buying produce in bulk, for me, is figuring out how to use all of it before it goes bad. Sometimes, though, that’s a good challenge. As noted earlier, I am inclined to prepare recipes and freeze them; so that helps. I also like the opportunity to try multiple recipes (like making tacos tomorrow with the leftover squash after having made kugel yesterday). So that can be a fun excuse to experiment and spend time in the kitchen– if you like doing those things. The best outcome of this exercise is that I am more likely to use these produce items again in the future. While I’m not in a huge rush to handle fresh artichokes again anytime soon, I am more likely to use artichokes, spaghetti squash, and butternut squash in my meal planning from now on.

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