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VOL. 36 | NO. 35 | Friday, August 31, 2012

A little cold water will make squash last

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Unfortunately, the last of the summer vegetables are making their debut (sigh). I hope you have put some up for the coming winter months, so say about January you can pull out the ingredients to make the tasty casserole below! It is not too late to do that if you haven’t yet!

Mom just got back from visiting my sister Karen, who lives in Grand Junction, Colo. The recipe, summer squash casserole, is one of their “family faves.” She made it for mom, who brought it home to me, which I changed slightly to please my family!

You can find many similar recipes. The difference with this one is that it has chicken in it, so instead of just a side dish, you have a great main dish!

It’s easy and when served with a salad, a loaf of piping hot sourdough bread and a tall glass of sweet tea, it is the perfect summer dinner!

When I was a child, my grandmother always had me out in her garden during the summer months, helping to harvest the vegetables. Squash was always one I enjoyed picking the most because it’s a bright, sunny color and you have to somewhat search under the pretty, yellow flowers and big, green leaves of the plant to find the perfect, non-blemished one! I made it somewhat a game because I hated the “chore” then. Now I cherish the memory.

Fruits and vegetables contain enzymes and bacteria that break down and destroy nutrients, which change the color, flavor and texture of food during frozen storage. Vegetables also can harbor salmonella, so most, including squash, require blanching or cooking in boiling water or steam.

Directions for freezing summer squash (zucchini, yellow squash, crookneck, pattypan, straightneck, white scallop, etc.) include assembling and preparing ahead of time:

• Any quantity of fresh, firm summer squash

• One large bowl filled with cold water and ice

• One large pot of boiling water

• Zip-lock freezer bags

Wash squash well in cold water. Slice off both ends, and then slice into 1/4 -1/2 inch chunks. Place sliced squash in pot of boiling water. Blanch for three minutes. Remove from hot water and immediately place in ice water to stop the cooking process, about five minutes, adding more ice, if necessary. Drain well and bag the squash; place in freezer.

Summer Squash Casserole

3-4 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts

1/2 stick butter or margarine

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small sweet onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

4 yellow squash, sliced 1/4-inch-thick

3 zucchini squash, sliced 1/4-inch-thick

1/2 cup grated carrots (optional)

1 (10 3/4-oz.) can fat-free cream of chicken soup

1 (10 3/4-oz.) can fat-free cream of mushroom soup

1 (8-oz.) container lite sour cream

1/2 cup lite mayonnaise

1 (8-oz.) can water chestnuts, drained and chopped

1 (8-oz.) package Pepperidge Farm Herb-seasoned stuffing

1/2 cup butter, melted

salt and pepper to taste

In large skillet, sauté chicken breasts, onion and garlic in butter and oil. Remove from skillet and set aside. Once cool enough to handle, chop chicken into bite-size pieces.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In saucepan, boil sliced squash in salted water until tender-crisp. Drain well. In large bowl, stir together carrots, soups, sour cream, mayo, and water chestnuts. Salt and pepper to taste. Fold in squash and chicken.

In small bowl, stir together stuffing and 1/2 cup melted butter. Spray a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Spoon half of stuffing mixture in bottom of dish. Spread squash mixture over stuffing, and top with remaining stuffing. Bake at 350 degrees, 30-35 minutes. If necessary, cover with foil to prevent over-browning. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.