Monday, October 03, 2005

Too Much of a Good Thing

This time of year we always find ourselves with an abundance of winter squash. Since they can be used just like pumpkin in recipes, I find myself making a lot of breads, muffins, pancakes and, most recently, biscuits with them. I have to be careful not to fall into what I call "too much of a good thing syndrome."

You've fallen into this syndrome when a particular food item or recipe appears on your menu just a little too often. Busy parents don't often notice but there are clues from the family. This is the big clue, foods or recipes that brought raves on the first few appearances now garner sighs. So what's a frugal cook to do?

In the case of winter squashes, this is where a freezer comes in handy (canning pumpkin is not recommended.) I just keep the squash with no visible blemishes in a dark cabinet by my potatoes. Check these every few days to make sure they are not getting soft. The remaining squash are halved, seeded and cooked face down on a lightly greased baking sheet at 350 degrees for about an hour. Cooking time depends on size of sqash halves. Make sure whatever you bake the squash on has a raised side because they leach out quite a bit of juice while cooking. The seeds can be baked on a lightly greased cookie sheet at the same time. Once cooled, the squash are scraped out and stored in the freezer so I can use them over time.

In my house, I know that a once a week appearance of pumpkin bread or muffins is acceptable so, no matter how tempted I am, I try to stick to that. I try to alternate in other seasonal foods, like apples. Using foods in season whenever possible minimizes your costs while maximizing your nutrition.

When it comes to recipes appearing too often, I'm guilty of falling into this trap, especially this time of year. My two standard quickie dinners are Peanut Noodles and Mac & "Cheese" and I've begun to overuse them as we rush to meetings and school functions. I just realized this weekend that I need to thumb through the cookbooks for a new recipe or two. Adding 1 or 2 new recipes can revitalize your repertoire.

I scan cookbooks based on the ingredients I have on hand. I'm going to give the Lentil Carrot Burger from The Compassionate Cook a try tonight because I have a plethora of carrots. If it goes well, I'll make a big batch to freeze. Never make a big batch of anything the first time because if it stinks you're stuck with it!

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