Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pasta with Clam Sauce and Baked Acorn Squash, Lentil Soup with Ham Hock and Leftover Squash

My husband loves red clam sauce.  I love it too in that I don't have to remember to get the hamburg out of the freezer, and it is easy to get supper on the table in the amount of time it takes to cook the pasta. 
We took the kids to the Son Harvest Pumpkin Patch, my cousin's farm outside of Riverton.  The kids all picked out a pumpkin, and we got several kinds of squash.  Among them were two huge white acorn squash.  We all love acorn squash, so we took it home and cooked it for supper. 
Acorn or any other squash is super easy to cook.  I just wash the outside with warm soapy water, and cut it open lengthwise.  I have an old silver serving spoon that is very sturdy, and I use either that, or the icecream scoop to remove the seeds and strings.  I then place the squash halves in a glass baking dish, cut side up, and season with salt and pepper, and a T of butter in the cavity.  I put that in the oven, and fill the glass dish with water at least 1/4 of the way up the sides of the squash.  Bake for at least 1 hour at 350*F.  To serve it, just scoop it out and top with a little butter and pepper, or even some grated cheese.  It is sweet and delicious! 
We only cooked one acorn, but had half of it left over, so I used it in the Lentil and Ham Hock Soup.  It adds lots of vitamin A, but also makes a great thickener.  I have also used it in my cheese sauce for Mac and Cheese.  It is a great vegetable for that, because kids eat it without ever knowing it is in there.
Below are two great examples of easy meals that rely on pantry staples.  I could cook either one anytime, as I always have dried pasta, canned clams, tomatoes, dried beans, and frozen ham hocks on hand. 
Even if you think you don't like seafood, try this sauce.  It is delicious!

Red Clam Sauce

2 T oil
1 white onion peeled and chopped
1/4 tsp red pepper flake
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp old bay seasoning for seafood
1 small can tomato paste
1 T minced garlic
1 5 oz can of chopped clams and their juice
1 quart diced tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet, brown onions in oil.  Add paste and let it brown a bit.  This carmelizes the sugars and makes a deeper taste to the sauce.  Add minced garlic, and juice from the clams.  Scrape the pan to loosen browned bits, and add remaining ingredients.  Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to simmer until pasta tests done.  I always serve this with Linguini, and fresh grated parmesan to top it.

I use my crock pot a couple times a week.  It really saves me, because in a quiet moment when the girls are taking their morning nap, I can get supper going.  Then at the end of the day, when I am pooped from chasing toddlers, and doing chores, I can just open the lid, and serve up the meal. 

Lentil and Ham Hock Soup

In a large sized crock pot, place:
1 pound lentils that have been washed in a strainer and picked over (sometimes there are stones)
1 white onion chopped
3 large carrots peeled and diced
1 green pepper diced
1 red pepper diced
1 jalapeno pepper diced
1 C celery diced (including leaves)
1 large ham hocks
2 quarts V-8 or tomato juice
2 quarts water
flesh from 1/2 cooked acorn squash
1/2 tsp marjoram
1 tsp Adobo Seasoning (a blend of salt, garlic, and spices found in the spice section of the grocery)
Ground pepper

Cook on high for 8-10 hours.  Before serving, taste and add salt and pepper if needed.  Remove ham hocks, and cool.  Using a fork, remove meat from the knuckle, and return it to the soup.

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