Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Roasted Squash, Tomatoes, Onions, Peppers, and Parmesan Cheese

Recently, I have been volunteering in the kitchen of a homeless shelter planning and cooking healthy and nutritious meals.  The shelter is in a food desert and they have a community teaching garden where interested people can come and learn how to grow fresh organic food in their own yard.  There are dedicated volunteers who give of their time and energy to help friends and neighbors learn how to better their health through the food they grow and eat.  Our director said as many as 50% of the people who cross our threshold are diabetic and do not have access to healthy food.  We are working to change that statistic.

We also have a pantry that is stocked by Second Harvest every Monday.  Shoppers are allowed to come 3 times in a 6 month period to get food for their families.  The need is great and supplies do not always meet demand.  It is very heartbreaking indeed.   The shelter has been in operation since 1965, but is expanding their community outreach with their main emphasis being food - healthy food.

Our next goal is to teach families how to prepare the food that we have in the pantry.  It is amazing how many people have no idea how to cook fresh vegetables because they have never had access to them.  Last year, the garden volunteers went to a neighborhood school and taught them how to grow vegetables in raised beds.  The children were amazed that food came from the ground.  They thought it only came from the grocery store.  It's time to change these concepts.

I love to cook and spending my mornings preparing a meal for people who sometimes may not have eaten for several days, is the most gratifying thing I have done in my life - hands down, bar none.  The smiles on their faces after a warm, delicious, nutritious meal means more than to me than any job or accomplishment in my life.  Watching strangers and neighbors talking, enjoying good food is a beautiful sight.  Everyone is warm, sharing and caring.  There is no one hoarding or piling their plate up like you sometimes see at a buffet.  The concern for their neighbor, wanting to make sure everyone gets something to eat is so soul satisfyingly wonderful, that I have to keep myself from breaking into tears many times.  Selfish is a word that does not even cross the threshold.  Seeing the little children eating good nutritious food is all I need to make my day.  A smile, kind words, a pat or hug and good food could change the world's attitude one meal at a time.

We make every effort to make the food taste good, look good,  and serve things that many have never eaten.  If you make food look and taste good, it's amazing what people will eat and really, really like it.  Last week, we made this roasted squash dish (in the picture above) that was so delicious.  Several people said they had never eaten squash, or they didn't like it.  Squash can be one of the most bland foods on the planet, so we encouraged them to try it prepared this way and every one, to a person, said they loved it and would eat it again.  That's why bland food will turn anyone away from even trying it.  We eat with our eyes first, so preparation and presentation is very important.

This is the way we made the roasted squash.  We are serving about 100 people a day, so I will give you the recipe for home preparation like in the picture above.  Actually, I made this for our family on Sunday.  It's easy and sooooo good.  I forgot to take a picture after it was done.  Oops.

Use a 9x13 pan and  6-8 medium sized yellow crook neck squash.  Wash and dry the squash.  Cut the tips off each end and cut into circles about 1/2 inch thick.  Add several cups of grape tomatoes, cut a shallot (or onion) into rings and scatter over the squash.    Dice a red bell pepper and scatter over the squash.  I also used a green banana pepper that is a little spicy for a little extra color and flavor.  Drizzle all the vegetables with some extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.  Mix together with your hands and place in a 350 degree oven and cook uncovered until all the vegetables are just getting soft.  Add 1 1/2 cups of fresh grated parmesan cheese to the vegetables, return to the oven and cook until the cheese melts.  Remove from the oven and serve.  The flavor of the parmesan just kicks this dish up one more notch.  We also drizzled it with some balsamic vinegar.  I didn't do that at home, because Dan would not eat it otherwise.  The balsamic is your choice.  Personally, I think it's fantastic.

This is a really easy dish to prepare, it is beautiful to look at with all the bright colors and is super nutritious and healthy.  It's an excellent side dish to just about any entree, or you could serve it over rice or pasta.

Cooking doesn't have to be hard or take all day.  This dish can be prepared in less than an hour and there are so many benefits to having fresh vegetables roasted in olive oil.  The more colorful the fruits and vegetables, the more vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants they contain.  The more vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants they contain, the better you will feel and your health will improve.  That is a worthwhile goal.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

Food made with love and shared could change the world.  There is so much abundance and waste in our country, it is heartbreaking.  Time for a new direction.  donna

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