From the Archives: Parmesan Roasted Green Beans

Parmesan roasted green beans are an easy side dish that can accompany chicken, fish, steak, pork, or any dish! The simple roasting method brings out the best in the green beans, giving them a unique flavor and delightful texture. No bland, mushy green beans here!IMG_0839

The first time I roasted green beans was life-changing; I never knew they could taste so good! My husband and I don’t particularly care for the green veggie unless it’s roasted. The texture and flavor completely changes so that even green-bean haters love them this way!

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I originally posted this recipe last year in conjunction with my easy crock pot bbq chicken, but this simple recipe deserves its own post. For the last couple years this has been my tried-and-true green bean recipe, and we wouldn’t have it any other way! Trust me, if you haven’t roasted green beans yet, you must try them. And then let me know how they turn out. I promise they’ll win you over this way!

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Sometimes I’ll add a sprinkle of parmesan cheese when I take the pan out of the oven, and sometimes I won’t. The parmesan adds another dimension of flavor and saltiness, but if you don’t have any or are cutting out dairy for dietary reasons, they’re still delicious as-is.

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They key is to season them well. Season with quite a bit of freshly cracked pepper, sea salt, and garlic powder before baking, then taste one out of the oven and re-season, if necessary. I like to season them once they’ve been tossed in olive oil and are laying flat on the baking sheet because I feel it gives me better control, but you can also season them as you combine them with the oil.

One last trick I use: I always cover my baking pan in foil for virtually no clean up. I lightly spray it with cooking spray before adding the green beans. Works every time!

Parmesan Roasted Green Beans

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz green beans, washed and dried
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1-2 Tbsp shredded parmesan cheese (optional)

1). Preheat oven to 425F. Line a pan with foil for easy clean up. Mix the green beans with olive oil, then season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste. Make sure they are all in one even layer on the pan.

2). Bake for 10 minutes. Mix the beans lightly and bake for an additional 5-7 minutes. Sprinkle with shredded parmesan cheese (optional).

Serves: about 4. Nutritional Information per serving: Calories: 62 Fat: 2.9g Carbs: 8g Protein: 2.7g Sodium: 38g without salt

Recipe adapted from: http://www.skinnytaste.com/2011/11/roasted-parmesan-green-beans.html

 

Cucumber, Strawberry, and Feta Salad.

Strawberry season is here!! One of my best friends and I went to a local farm to pick fresh strawberries this week, and although I already froze and ate some plain, I wanted to incorporate them into a salad. Last year I really enjoyed this strawberry and baby kale salad, and this year I think my new favorite will be this cucumber and strawberry salad!

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I know what you’re thinking: cucumbers and strawberries?! Yes. Surprisingly they go very well together. I’m kicking out the tomatoes from the traditional cucumber/tomato salad and replacing them with another bright red fruit: strawberries.

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Reasons to love this salad:

-It is light and refreshing.

Chilled cucumbers and strawberries together? Cool and crisp!

-It requires only 4 ingredients.

Just cucumbers, strawberries, feta cheese, and a poppyseed dressing.

-It is quick and easy. 

Chop your cucumbers and strawberries, sprinkle some feta, pour the dressing, mix and you’re done!

-It is an unexpected combination.

Everyone expects to see cucumbers and tomatoes together. Why not change it up and use strawberries?

-It is a beautiful color combination.

Bright green cucumbers and red strawberries with a sprinkle of white feta in-between? It’s practically art in a bowl.

-Everyone seems to love it!

I can’t tell you how many people have raved about this salad! It’s a winner, for sure.

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Now, I am typically all about making your own salad dressings. After all, I already have several posted on the blog: creamy garlic, red pepper jelly vinaigrette, chia seed dressingavocado ranch, and a tangy blackberry balsamic. In this case, I did take a shortcut because of time restraints and bought Panera’s poppyseed dressing. If you have time to make your own, do it. If not, I was quite pleased with the flavor of this one and would recommend it. There are certainly more ingredients listed on the label than what you would use if you make your own, but that’s almost always the case with store-bought products.

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So, are you looking for a new way to sneak strawberries into a meal? Want to try a light and refreshing salad? You should really try this one; it just might become your new favorite!

Cucumber, Strawberry & Feta Salad.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large cucumbers, peeled and chopped
  • 4 cups strawberries, washed and chopped
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 6 tbsp poppyseed dressing

1) Combine all the ingredients together in a bowl. Mix well and serve!

Servings: about 6. Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 121 Carbs: 19 g Fat: 5g Protein: 5g Fiber: 4g Points+: 3

Recipe adapted from: http://thehousewifeintrainingfiles.com/cucumber-strawberry-poppyseed-salad/ 

Chipotle’s Cilantro Lime Rice

Sometimes rice can be a little bland, which is why I love Chipotle’s cilantro lime rice–it is SO flavorful! If you are looking for a great addition to your Mexican dinner night, you need to make this rice. It will kick your tacos or rice bowls up a notch!

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All that’s required to totally transform your rice are a few simple ingredients: fresh cilantro, lime juice, and oil. After cooking your rice, simply toss it together with those 3 ingredients and all of a sudden you will have Chipotle-style rice ready for eating! We love it with my easy crockpot Mexican shredded chicken for tacos, rice bowls, quesadillas, etc.

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I used brown rice because it is much more nutritious, but you can certainly use white rice or whatever your favorite is! Also, honestly, the cilantro measurement is really an estimate–I LOVE cilantro and sometimes add more. I like to make sure every bite will be speckled with the green herb, but if you are not as big of a fan of the flavor I’d definitely stick to just the 3 tbsp. You can always taste it and add more if you think it needs it!IMG_20140219_175001827_HDR
Chipotle’s Cilantro Lime Rice

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups cooked brown (or white) rice
  • 1/2 lime, juice of
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tsp oil
  • salt, to taste

1). Prepare rice according to package directions.

2). In a bowl, mix together the hot rice, lime juice, cilantro, oil, and salt. Taste and adjust seasoning accordingly.

Serving size: 1/2 cup cooked rice. Servings: about 6. Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 163 Carbs: 33g Fat: 1g Protein: 4g Fiber: 2g Points+:4

Recipe adapted from: http://www.skinnytaste.com/2009/03/chipotle-cilantro-lime-rice-4-pts.html

Baked Spaghetti Squash and Cheese

Baked spaghetti squash and cheese! Get it? Like baked mac’ and cheese, except with spaghetti squash (and some spinach)! Y’all, I’m so easily amused. Anyway, this dish is creamy, filling, and light…but it does NOT taste that way! It is super creamy and an excellent side dish for just about anything. I served it with grilled chicken, but fish, pork, or steak would all be great options. I am not exaggerating when I say this may be my new favorite side dish!

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If you’re gluten free or trying to cut back on pasta, this is the perfect substitute for cheese-y noodles. My husband is not a fan of spaghetti squash but he loved this dish! If you’re on the fence about spaghetti squash, I feel confident that this dish will win you over.

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To prepare, I baked my spaghetti squash in the oven at 400F for about 1 hour. I have an entire post on the various ways to cook spaghetti squash and why it’s so awesome. Click here to check it out! Once the spaghetti squash is cooked, you saute some chopped onion in half a tablespoon of butter. Yes, real butter, but only a half a tablespoon! It will give your sauce a slight buttery flavor (even my husband picked up on it!). Whisk in your flour, milk, chicken broth, and continue whisking away until it starts thickening up. Melt in the cheese and add the spaghetti squash noodles, fresh spinach leaves, plus some salt and pepper for flavor. Once it’s all incorporated it is ready to go back in the oven for about 30 minutes until everything is melted and delicious!

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This dish is not very complicated to prepare, but the only con is that it does take a little while if you have to account for the spaghetti squash cooking. Aside from the 1 hour the spaghetti squash cooked in the oven, it probably took me about 15 minutes to get the sauce together before the final 30 minutes of baking. I have to tell you, though, it was definitely worth it!

Baked Spaghetti Squash and Cheese

Ingredients:

  • 1 small spaghetti squash
  • 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped finely
  • 2 tbsp flour (use 1 tbsp corn starch for gf)
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1/2 cup fat free chicken broth (vegetable broth for vegetarian)
  • 4 oz 2% reduced fat mild cheddar
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups (about 2 oz) baby spinach
  • 1 tbsp grated parmesan for topping (optionl)

1). Pierce the spaghetti squash with a knife and bake at 400F for about 1 hour. (Alternate cooking methods can be found here.)

2). Remove the squash from oven, cut in half, spoon out seeds and use a fork to remove the “noodles.” Reduce the oven temperature to 375F.

3). Meanwhile, chop up the onion. Heat the butter and olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add onions and cook until softened.

4). Reduce heat to medium-low and add the flour, whisking about 1 minute. Whisk in the milk and chicken broth, raising the heat to medium-high until the mixture begins to boil and thicken.

5). Remove from heat and add cheese, spaghetti squash noodles, spinach, salt, and pepper to taste. Mix well until fully incorporated. Pour into a lightly greased baking sheet and top with grated parmesan. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown.

Servings: 4-5 1 cup servings, depending on the size of your spaghetti squash.

Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 165 Carbs: 16g Fat: 8g Protein: 10g Fiber: 2g Points+: 5

Recipe adapted from skinnytaste.com.

Farro with Roasted Green Beans, Cranberries & Feta.

This farro salad is so nutty and flavorful! There are layers of different textures and flavors in each bite. The cranberries are slightly sweet, the roasted green beans add a little salt and crunch, the feta cheese adds a some tang, and the farro itself is chewy and nutty. Oh, and I almost forgot about the homemade balsamic vinaigrette that ties it all together! This side dish was a major hit with my husband and myself. It’s a nice change of pace from using the same old whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, etc.) and was very filling. It’s also very versatile: you can change what vegetable you include and what you serve it with. I served it with chicken but it honestly could go with anything!

IMG_20140120_192338001_HDRIf you’re unfamiliar with farro, have no fear! Although I have had farro before, this was my first attempt at cooking with it at home. To prepare it, all you have to do is boil it in a pot of water for 20 minutes until it is al dente (like pasta). Farro is not a form of pasta, however; it is a whole grain rich in Vitamins A, B, C, and E, as well as fiber and magnesium. Unfortunately, it is not gluten free. If you are gluten free, you could substitute quinoa for the farro. Farro by itself does not really have a particular taste (much like pasta or quinoa), making it a nice blank canvas for any flavor you want to add to it. In this salad, it absorbs the tangy balsamic vinaigrette and the flavors of the other ingredients perfectly.

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Please feel free to play around with what vegetable and cheese you include. Also, at the bottom of the farro salad recipe I posted how to make that simple homemade balsamic vinaigrette. It was perfect!

Farro with Roasted Green Beans, Cranberries & Feta.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup farro
  • 2 cups water
  • fresh green beans, trimmed and chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup reduced sugar dried cranberries
  • 1/2-3/4 cup reduced fat crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 tbsp EVOO
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder (or more, to taste)
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinaigrette**

1). Bring the water and farro to a boil in a small pot. Reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes, or until farro is al dente.

2). Preheat the oven to 400F. Toss the green beans in EVOO, salt, pepper, and garlic powder and spread them out on a baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until tender-crisp, moving them around about halfway through.

3). In a medium size bowl, mix the farro, green beans, cranberries, feta, and balsamic vinaigrette together. Adjust seasoning as necessary.

**Use homemade or store-bought vinaigrette.
I used the following recipe which will make a 1/2 cup (you only need 1/4 cup for the farro salad, so save the rest for another salad!):

Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 large clove garlic (grated)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

1). Whisk all ingredients together well.

Servings of farro salad: 7. Nutritional Information per serving: Calories: 214 Carbs: 25g Fat: 11g protein: 6g Fiber: 5g WWPoints+: 6

Recipes adapted from: http://www.closetcooking.com/2012/01/roasted-mushroom-and-green-bean-farro.html and http://www.closetcooking.com/2010/02/balsamic-vinaigrette.html

Roasted Parmesan Sweet Potatoes

This is a perfect side dish for practically anything–chicken, pork, beef, or even fish! I like having simple, versatile recipes in my back pocket for busy weeknight meals. This one does just that!

Roasted parmesan sweet potatoes that are easy, simple, and completely satisfying! I love sweet potatoes because they’re so good for you, and my favorite way to eat them is roasted. This version is savory thanks to a touch of parmesan cheese. I like having both a savory and sweet version of roasted sweet potatoes. (By the way, you can find my favorite “sweet” version of  roasted sweet potato recipes here.) Like I said, this recipe comes together very quickly and is sure to be a hit! My husband, who does not typically care for sweet potatoes, ate every last one off his plate!IMG_20140103_193551191 (1)

Notice there’s just a tablespoon of parmesan cheese for the whole batch; we aren’t going too crazy! Of course, if you want to you can certainly add more. Other than salt and pepper, the sweet potatoes are spiced with dried thyme. If you don’t care for thyme, swap it out with your favorite herb! I think rosemary, oregano, sage, or even basil could be delicious.

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Here’s a great bonus with this recipe…it makes for very little clean up. I love cooking, but I don’t love spending a long time cleaning up after (especially on weeknights!). After chopping the sweet potatoes, place them in a Ziploc bag and add the remaining ingredients. Seal the bag and mix them really well. This results in 2 important things: #1-Even coverage of the spices on the potatoes and #2-nothing to clean up! Just throw the bag away after you’re done!

To cut down on clean up even further, I also like to line my baking pan with foil sprayed lightly with cooking spray. You don’t have to do that, though. I sometimes roast sweet potatoes in a glass casserole dish!

Once the potatoes are in the oven, let them cook until they’re really soft and starting to get a little crunchy on the outside. That’s the way I like ’em. See?

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Your cook time will depend on how small your sweet potato pieces are and how hot your oven is. For me, about 30 minutes was just right.

Roasted Parmesan Sweet Potatoes

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp EVOO
  • 1 tbsp parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Ziploc bag
  • Foil (optional)
  • Cooking spray

1). Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with foil, if using, and spray with cooking spray.

2). In a large Ziploc bag, add the sweet potatoes, garlic, EVOO, parmesan cheese, thyme, salt, and pepper. Seal the bag and shake it to mix well. Once all the potatoes are evenly covered, spread them out on the prepared baking sheet.

3). Bake for 30-35 minutes, giving them a stir after 20 minutes. Potatoes are done when they are soft and slightly crunchy on the outside.

Servings: 3. Nutritional Information per serving: Calories: 149 Carbs: 23g Fat: 6g rotein: 2g Fiber: 3g WW PointsPlus: 4

Recipe adapted from: http://www.teeniecakes.com/2010/12/roasted-parmesan-sweet-potatoes/

Autumn Chopped Salad

I love salads that you get at restaurants; they always include a variety of ingredients, textures, and flavors. Somehow I always have a hard time mustering up the energy to create fancy salads at home. Until this salad. This salad is awesome!

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From the picture you can’t even see all the ingredients because some are tucked away, but let me tell you about everything going on here. In addition to the chopped romaine, you add a chopped apple, pear, a handful of peanuts, a sprinkle of cooked bacon or prosciutto, crumbled feta, and some dried cranberries. What makes this combination even more unique is the dressing. I had never previously combined poppy seed dressing with balsamic vinegar, and turns out it is amazing! I used Panera’s fat-free poppy seed dressing (which apparently they sell in the stores now…woot!) and loved the result. Definitely tangy from the balsamic vinegar but there’s still a hint of sweetness from the poppy seed dressing. I’ve already made this salad 3 times, each time for guests, and everyone has raved over it (even my husband!). I’m a huge fan myself!

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As always, feel free to adjust the recipe to suit your needs. The bacon is completely optional and I still thought the salad was delicious without it. If you have a peanut allergy, feel free to omit those as well. If you love fruit in salads as much as I do, though, you’ll want to make sure to include both the apple and pear. So, so good!

I am honestly considering using this recipe as our salad for Thanksgiving this year. Yes, it is THAT GOOD! And, it makes about 8 servings from the recipe, so it is perfect for feeding a crowd.

Go make this salad!

Autumn Chopped Salad

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups chopped romaine lettuce
  • 2-3 slices center-cut bacon
  • 1 pear, chopped
  • 1 apple, chopped
  • 1/4 cup peanuts, chopped
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 3-4 tbsp Poppy Seed Salad Dressing (or more or less. I used Panera’s fat free dressing)
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (or more or less)
  1. Cook bacon according to preferred method (microwave, stove top, or oven). Allow it to cool and then chop up.
  2. Add cooled bacon, romaine lettuce, pear, apple, peanuts, dried cranberries, and feta cheese into a very large bowl, then add salad dressing and balsamic vinegar to taste. Toss well then serve immediately.

Servings: about 8. Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 75 Carbs: 11g Fat: 3g Protein: 4g Fiber: 2g WW Points+=2

Recipe adapted from: http://iowagirleats.com/2012/09/24/autumn-chopped-salad/

Quinoa Salad with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Kale

This dish just screams autumn to me. Everything from the colors to the warm flavors make it a perfect recipe to cook this time of year. I love all the major ingredients that play into this recipe and I am always looking for new ways to incorporate them in our menu, especially kale.

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The preparation of the kale for this salad was unique. It is baked in the oven to create crispy kale chips, but it bakes in balsamic vinegar which gives it a neat tang. I ate a couple right out of the oven and they were awesome! Roasting the sweet potatoes and onion together really bring out a nice flavor that carries through the dish. This was filling and could also be a main dish for vegetarians/vegans! 

I really appreciated that other than the small amount of oil used to roast the sweet potatoes, no additional oil is necessary in the “dressing.” All that is added is a few extra tablespoons of balsamic vinegar to ensure that every bite of this quinoa salad is tangy and delicious.

Once all the vegetables and quinoa are cooked, toss them all together in a large bowl, making sure to mix really well so that everything is equally distributed!

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The salad can be served warm or even at room temperature. I could even see this as an addition for Thanksgiving to cater to vegetarians/vegans. You can also add dried cranberries to add another dimension of flavor. Yum!

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Quinoa Salad with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Kale

Ingredients:

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 cups kale
  • 5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, divided
  • 1 cup uncooked black quinoa
  • 2 cups water (or low-sodium, fat free broth)
  • Pinch of salt

1). Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place sweet potatoes and onion in a medium bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss together and then put them on a large baking sheet that has been lined with foil and sprayed with cooking spray. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are tender. Stir a few times while baking.

2). Drizzle kale with 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper and place on a baking sheet. When the sweet potatoes and onions have been in the oven for 15 minutes, put the kale in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, or until kale is wilted and starting to get a little crispy.

3). While the vegetables are roasting, make the quinoa. Using a strainer, rinse the black quinoa under cold water. Add quinoa, water, and salt to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 5 minutes. Turn the heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until water is absorbed. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork. Let cool quinoa cool.

4). When the vegetables are done roasting, let them cool to room temperature. In a large bowl, combine quinoa, sweet potatoes, onion, and kale. Drizzle the salad with remaining three tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. Stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Servings: 6 as a side dish. Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 184 Carbs: 33g Fat: 4g Protein: 6g Sugar: 6g Fiber: 4g WW Points += 5 

Recipe adapted from: http://www.twopeasandtheirpod.com/quinoa-salad-with-roasted-sweet-potatoes-kale-dried-cranberries-red-onion/

 

 

 

Garlicky Baked Butternut Squash

I absolutely LOVE butternut squash. It is one of my favorite root vegetables, and I love it in soups, pasta sauces, or simply roasted by itself. Roasting vegetables seems to be my go-to method, but that does not mean it has to result in redundant dishes! A couple of flavorful additions make this butternut squash fantastic. The key player here is the parmesan cheese. A little bit goes a long way! I used 2 pounds of chopped butternut squash and only 1/4 cup of cheese. You could certainly use more if you prefer.

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The texture of the squash was perfect–not too firm but definitely not mushy. I do not care for mushy squash! I liken this to the “al dente” bite of pasta when cooked properly. Plus, this is so simple to make; a quick toss and this dish is ready to go in the oven. The parchment paper ensures the squash will cook evenly and without sticking. I made this side dish for my family this past weekend and we all enjoyed it a lot!

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This is quickly becoming my favorite way to cook butternut squash and I think even picky eaters will love it! I may never roast “plain” butternut squash again.

This would be a great addition to your Thanksgiving meal as well!

Garlicky Baked Butternut Squash

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs chopped butternut squash
  • 1-2 tbsp EVOO
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsely, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

1) Preheat the oven to 400F. In a large ziplokc bag, combine all of the ingredients. Shake to mix well.

2) Transfer to a parchment-lined baking pan. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the squash is fork tender.

Servings: 8. Nutritional Information per serving: Calories: 97 Fat: 5g Carbs: 10g Protein: 4g Fiber: 2g

WW PointsPlus: 3

Recipe adapted from http://ohsheglows.com/2009/02/08/garlicky-baked-butternut-squash/

Oven Baked Corn on the Cob

My preferred method of cooking corn on the cob is, by far, on the grill. However, there are times when it is not possible or very inconvenient to do so. So, I want to share with you my back-up method of cooking corn. It is perfect for cooking a large quantity of corn (think parties!) and it could not be easier! I really prefer this over the boiling method.

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This oven baked corn yields amazing results and requires just a few simple steps. Essentially all you have to do is preheat the oven, wrap up each piece of corn in foil, and let it bake. That’s IT! I told you it was easy! I am simplistic when it comes to corn in that I do not add butter, but if you would like you can add the butter before you wrap it up and bake.

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Oven Baked Corn on the Cob

Ingredients:

  • Fresh corn on the cob (husk/silks removed)
  • (optional) Salt and/or butter
  • Foil

1) Preheat the oven to 350F. If using butter, lightly add a small amount of butter/salt to each ear of corn. Wrap each one in foil and place on a baking tray.

2) Bake for 30-35 minutes, turning halfway through. Remove from oven and enjoy!

Nutritional Information per medium ear of corn: Calories: 84 Carbs: 20g Fat: 1g Protein: 3g Sugar: 5g Fiber: 5g

WW PointsPlus: 1. 

Recipe adapted from: http://breadplusbutter.blogspot.com/2009/08/oven-roasted-corn-on-cob.html?m=1