Zucchini Top Hats

Mexicana Couscous

3/4 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup frozen peas
3/4 cup coarsely chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons snipped fresh cilantro
3/4 cup couscous
Fresh cilantro sprigs (optional)

In a medium saucepan cook onion and garlic in hot oil over medium heat until tender. Stir in cumin; cook for 30 seconds. Carefully add broth, peas, tomato and cilantro.

Bring mixture to boiling; stir in couscous. Remove from heat. Cover; let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving. Garnish with cilantro sprigs, if desired.

Makes 6 side-dish servings.

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Steamed and Sauteed Kale

1 pound kale — the younger, the better
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup garlic — peeled and thinly sliced (about 5 or 6 cloves)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
piece of lemon rind

If the stems are greater than 1/4 inch in diameter, strip the leaves and discard the stems. Otherwise, cut the stems into 1-inch lengths and chop the leaves coarsely.

Place the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the garlic, pepper flakes, and salt, and cook on high heat for about 1 minute.

Meanwhile, wash the kale in cold water, lifting it out of the water and shaking it briefly to remove most of the water. Add it to the saucepan. (The water remaining on the kale is enough for the cooking process). Cover and cook on high heat for approximately 4 to 5 minutes, until the kale is wilted and just tender but still a little firm.

Arrange the kale on a plate and decorate the center with a piece of lemon rind; serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings

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Slow Cooker Kasha

3 medium onions — thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup kasha — medium or coarse (buckwheat groats)
1 large egg
8 oz sliced cremini mushrooms — or white button mushrooms
2 1/2 cups broth — (homemade or low-sodium store-bought)
Fresh black pepper
Kosher salt — (if using homemade broth)

In a 3-quart slow cooker, stir the onions and olive oil together. Cook on HIGH for 2 hours, stirring once. The onions should begin to brown here and there.

In a small bowl, toss the kasha with the egg to coat all of the grains, then add it to the slow cooker along with the mushrooms, broth, and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper. Stir everything together.

Cook on HIGH for 40-45 minutes, stirring once or twice, or until the liquid is absorbed and the kasha is soft.

Serve as a side dish to any roast or grilled meat or fish.

Serving Size: 6

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Nutty Brussels Sprouts

1/2 pound Brussels sprouts, halved
1 tablespoon butter
3/4 teaspoon cider vinegar
3/4 teaspoon maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Saute Brussels sprouts in butter in a skillet until tender. Add vinegar, syrup, salt and pepper, cook 1 minute longer.

Sprinkle with pecans, then serve.

Makes 2 servings.

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Sautéed Cauliflower and Apples

1/4 cup pecans
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small shallot, chopped
1 small head cauliflower (about 1 1/2 pounds), cut into florets (about 5 cups)
kosher salt and black pepper
1 red apple (such as Fuji or Braeburn), thinly sliced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Heat oven to 350° F. Spread the pecans on a rimmed baking sheet and toast, tossing occasionally, until fragrant, 6 to 8 minutes. Let cool, then roughly chop.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the cauliflower and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper and cook, tossing occasionally, until golden, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the apple, thyme, and 1/2 cup water. Cover and cook until the cauliflower is tender, 8 to 10 minutes more. Stir in the butter and sprinkle with the pecans.

Serves 4

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Pear and Red Onion Gratin

1 large red onion
3 cups Bosc pears
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup coarse whole wheat dry breadcrumbs — (see note)
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Fill a large bowl three-quarters full with water; add a handful of ice cubes. Cut onion into 16 wedges, place in a strainer and lower into water. Let stand for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Halve and core each pear; cut each half into 6 slices. Drain the onion wedges well and place them in a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish along with the pear slices, 1 Tbsp oil, thyme, salt and a grinding of pepper; toss to combine. Cover with foil.

Roast for 30 minutes, stirring twice.

Meanwhile, combine breadcrumbs and cheese in a small bowl. Drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons oil; stir to combine. Remove the pan from the oven, sprinkle the crumb mixture evenly over the gratin, return to oven and roast until breadcrumbs are well browned, 20 to 30 minutes more. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 8, as a side dish

NoteTo Make Your Own Breadcrumbs: Trim crusts from firm whole-grain sandwich bread. Tear bread into pieces and process in a food processor until coarse crumbs form. One slice makes about 1/3 cup. Spread breadcrumbs onto a baking sheet and bake at 250°F until dry and crispy, about 15 minutes.

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Scalloped Squash and Potatoes

2 cups heavy cream
4 sage sprigs
3 cloves garlic, smashed
2 pounds potatoes, peeled, sliced
2 pound butternut squash, peeled, sliced
2 1/4 cups grated Gruyere cheese
Salt and Pepper

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

In a pan, bring cream, sage and garlic to a boil. Remove from heat, let steep.

In a bowl, toss potatoes and squash with 1 1/2 cups cheese, salt and pepper.

Transfer to a greased 3 quart baking dish. Remove sage and garlic from cream mixture, then pour over vegetables. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup cheese and more pepper.

Bake covered until edges begin to bubble 30 minutes. Uncover sprinkle with remaining cheese, bake until vegetables are tender and top is browned 30 minutes. Let rest 15 minutes before serving.

Makes 8 servings.

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Cranberry Filled Acorn Squash

2 medium acorn squash
3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
3/4 cup apple juice, divided
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts

Cut squash in half; remove seed and fibers. Bake squash, cut side down, in flat pan in preheated 350 degree oven about 1 hour, until tender.

In medium saucepan, combine cranberries, 1/2 cup apple juice, sugar, cloves and nutmeg. Cook over low heat until cranberry skins pop.

Combine remaining 1/4 cup apple juice with cornstarch, mixing well. Gradually stir into cranberry mixture, mixing well. Heat and stir just until thickened.

Spoon cranberry mixture into squash shells. Sprinkle cranberries with chopped walnuts.

Place in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until piping hot.

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Cheesy Onion Potatoes

6 medium baking potatoes, unpeeled and cubed (about 2 pounds)
1/4 cup butter
1 (1-ounce) envelope onion soup mix
1 1/2 cups (6-ounces) shredded Cheddar cheese
5 green onions, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place potatoes in a 9-inch by 13-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Dot with butter, and sprinkle dry onion soup mix over the top.

Cover and bake 25 minutes; uncover and stir. Cover and bake an additional 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Sprinkle with cheese and green onions; serve immediately.

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