Penne Pasta with Roasted Butternut Squash and Pecans

January 12, 2012 By: Megabeth Category: Main Dishes

Looking to make some pasta but wanting to kick it up a notch? Add some roasted butternut squash, toasted pecans and you’ve got it. The pecans add a crunchy texture into what would otherwise be “normal” pasta while the basil brings in a hint of spring that I’ve been longing for on these long winter nights. I used both fresh regular basil and some red leaf mixed in for good measure.

I’m a fan of butternut squash already peeled, cubed and ready to go.  The bright orange color and the sweet roasted flavor helped boost my mood on a cold winter’s evening. I suppose a bonus is the heated oven keeps things nice and toasty in the kitchen.

Penne Pasta with Roasted Butternut Squash and Pecans
By Megabeth

  • 1 package fresh cubed butternut squash
  • 16 oz whole wheat penne pasta
  • 1 to 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 cup crushed pecans
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves, chopped
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesean cheese
  • salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425.

Spread butternut squash, onions and garlic cloves on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Roast for 40 to 45 minutes until butternut squash is golden. Add pecans to baking tray for the last 4 to 5 minutes to toast. (Watch onions to make sure they don’t burn.)

Meanwhile, make penne pasta per package directions and place in bowl. Toss roasted vegetables into pasta. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle with some cheese.

Basil Sun-dried Tomato Goat Cheese Spread

November 21, 2011 By: Megabeth Category: Snacks/Appetizers

Layers of goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and basil. Oh yeah, there’s nothing wrong with that – especially when you’ve got to feed a lot of people. Or, perhaps distract folks while you head back into the kitchen to work on the rest of the meal.

I embellished this recipe only a tiny bit by adding some red leaf basil along with the fresh oregano.  This went very over well at a company potluck with some folks remaining non-believers that I actually made it.

Oh, I also had to improvise a bit because I didn’t have a 8 x 4-inch loaf pan. Fortunately, I just happened to buy a package of flatbread crackers that came in a little plastic container that was perfect as a mold. You could probably also get a little more “Martha Stewart” on the presentation than I did but you get the idea.

Basil Sun-dried Tomato Goat Cheese Spread


  • 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 8 ounces goat cheese
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 teaspoons chopped fresh or 1 1/4 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup basil pesto
  • 1/2 cup dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped
  • Garnishes: dried tomato slivers, fresh oregano sprigs
  • French bread slices or crackers

Process first 5 ingredients in a food processor until smooth.

Spread one-third of cheese mixture in bottom of a plastic wrap-lined 8- x 4-inch loaf pan. Top with pesto; spread one-third cheese mixture over pesto.

Sprinkle with dried tomatoes; top with remaining cheese mixture. Cover and chill 8 hours.

Invert spread onto a serving plate, discarding plastic wrap.

Garnish, if desired. Serve with French bread slices or crackers.

Quick Pesto with Broiled Tomatoes

October 16, 2011 By: Megabeth Category: Main Dishes, Side Dishes, Snacks/Appetizers

Quick Pesto with Broiled Tomatoes (5)This is truly one of the best pesto recipes I’ve ever made. The nutritional yeast adds a nutty flavor to the pesto that balances the sharpness of the pine nuts. I have few recipes actually memorized, this one has made the cut. And, especially now that my Aerogarden is growing basil like gangbusters I’ll need to “go to” recipe so nothing goes to waste.

I made the pesto a couple days before I used it on the tomatoes.  It held up nicely in the refrigerator. Just let it come to room temperature before putting it under the broiler otherwise you’ll have some burnt panko and cold pesto to bite into.

A couple thoughts about the rest of the recipe…the tomatoes can be made easily in the toaster oven. No need to heat up your whole kitchen just for a few tomato halves. I must also note, the tomatoes I used were a little too big which meant a lot of fork and knife action to get manageable pieces. I think next time I’m going to make these as little bite-sized versions using campari tomatoes. If you’re looking for a main dish, I’d suggest perhaps going for making a bunch of these using plum tomatoes or find actual medium-sized tomatoes.

Quick Pesto with Broiled Tomatoes
from Vegetarian Times, July/August 2011

Quick Pesto

  • 3 cups basil leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Broiled Tomatoes

  • 4 medium tomatoes, cored and halved crosswise
  • 5 Tablespoons plus 1 tsp panko breadcrumbs

To make quick pesto: Place basil and garlic in food processor and process until finely chopped. Add pine nuts and nutritional yeast.

Quick Pesto with Broiled Tomatoes (1)Process 1 minute, or until pine nuts are finely chipped and mixture is paste-like.

Quick Pesto with Broiled Tomatoes (2)With motor running, add olive oil in steady stream. Process 1 minute more or until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.

Quick Pesto with Broiled Tomatoes (3)To make Broiled Tomatoes: Preheat oven to broil. Place tomatoes cut-side up on baking sheet. Spread each tomato half with 2 tsp. quick pesto, and sprinkle with 2 tsp panko breadcrumbs.

Quick Pesto with Broiled Tomatoes (4)Broil 3 to 5 minutes, or until breadcrumps are browned and pesto is bubbly.

Quick Pesto with Broiled Tomatoes (6)

Veggin’ Cookbook Chronicles: Panini with Grilled Eggplant, Roasted Peppers, and Spinach-Pesto Sauce

September 03, 2010 By: Megabeth Category: Cookbook Chronicle Challenge, Main Dishes, Sandwiches

Last year, at the DC Green Festival, I picked up Vegan Italiano – a cookbook featuring “meat-free, egg-free, dairy-free dishes from sun-drenched Italy.”

This cookbook proves that the vegan diet can indeed be adventurous and delicious.

Donna Klein begins Vegan Italiano with a quick overview of cooking in the various regions of Italy and then provides a little information about ingredients and how nutritional information was calculated. Then, it’s off to the races with 225 recipes including the whole gamut of soups, salads, pasta, rice/grains, vegetables, beans, pizza, breads, sandwiches and desserts.

There are no pictures in the book, but there are quick introductions to each recipe providing a serving suggestion, a hint or a menu idea. In paging through this cookbook, I noted how many of the vegetable dishes would be perfect on a Thanksgiving table – carrots with basil, butternut squash puree, green beans with wild mushroom and tomatoes. Many of these vegan recipes could be added to the table without the carnivore being any the wiser.

For the panini recipe, I used a whole wheat ciabatta bread and cooked everything under the broiler. Be aware when making the spinach-pesto sauce. I used three cloves of a very fresh organic garlic bulb and let’s just say that the In-house Taste Tester and I scared off all vampires in a 3-mile radius from our house after eating these sandwiches. So, if you want less pungent results perhaps cut down the amount of garlic and add more after you have a chance to taste test it.

These sandwiches were fresh and light on a summer’s evening and would be perfect to make when grilling because there really isn’t a lot of preparation involved. (You could make the pesto a day in advance.)

Panini with Grilled Eggplant, Roasted Peppers, and Spinach-Pesto Sauce
Vegan Italiano

1 large round eggplant (about 1 pound), cut into ½-inch-thick rounds
Table salt
1 medium green or red bell pepper (about 6 ounces, cut lengthwise into eights (Note: I used yellow pepper…I also considered using an orange pepper. The recipe is flexible.)
1 medium red onion (about 6 ounces), cut into ½-inch-thick rounds
2 ½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ tablespoon balsamic vinegar
salte, preferably the coarse variety, and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 large slices Italian bread (about 1 ¼ ounces each) (Note: I used whole wheat ciabatta.)

Spinach-Pesto Sauce (recipe below)

Sprinkle the eggplant slices with table salt and set in a colander in the sink to drain 30 minutes.

Prepare a medium-hot charcoal grill or gas grill, or preheat a broiler. Position the grill rack or over rack 4 to 6 inches from the heat source. If broiling, lightly oil a large baking sheet and set aside. Or, place a stovetop grilling pan with grids over medium-high heat.

Rinse the eggplant slices under cold-running water and drain well between paper towels.

Brush the eggplant, bell pepper, and onion on all sides with 2 tablespoons of the oil.

Grill or broil the vegetables until browned and tender, working in batches as necessary. As a general rule, cook the bell pepper 3 to 4 minutes per side, and the eggplant and onion 2 to 3 minutes per side. Place the vegetables on a large baking sheet with sides as they finish cooking.

When all the vegetables are done, drizzle with the remaining ½ tablespoon oil and balsamic vinegar, and the sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss gently with a large spatula to combine. Cover with foil and keep warm while grilling bread.

Grill or broil the bread on both sides until nicely toasted. Divide the vegetables evenly among 4 slices of the bread. Spoon equal portions of the Spinach Pesto Sauce (recipe below) over the vegetables. Top each with a slice of toasted bread and serve at once.

Spinach-Pesto Sauce
1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1 cup loosely packed baby spinach leaves
3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon coarse salt, or more to taste
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Combine the basil, spinach, garlic, and salt in a food processor fitted with the knife blade, or in a blender.

Process until finely chopped. Add the oil and process until smooth. If not using immediately, store tightly covered in the refrigerator up to 2 days.

Note from cookbook: This tasty pesto is also wonderful tossed with pasta, gnocchi, boiled potatoes, or steamed vegetables.

Spinach Pesto Nutrition Information
Per serving (about 4 teaspoons)
Calories 76
Protein 2g
Total Fat 7g
Sat. Fat 1g
Cholesterol 0mg
Carbohydrate 3g
Dietary Fiber 0g
Sodium 130mg

Sandwich Nutrition Information
Calories 393
Protein 9 g
Total Fat 18g
Sat Fat 3g
Cholesterol 0mg
Carbohydrate 50g
Dietary Fiber 8g
Sodium 549g

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