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Calabacitas: Fall vegetables make a favorite family meal

Even if you don’t love cooking, I bet you have at least one family recipe you make periodically. You make it because it’s delicious, or because it reminds you of something or someone special.

It could be the seasonality of the ingredients, or the upcoming anniversary of my grandmother’s passing, but right now, that family recipe for me is calabacitas.

You can count on calabacitas containing peppers, squash and corn – from there expect some variations based on whose family is making it.

Of course, my grandmother and mother always made the best version. It’s a claim we’re all allowed to make when it comes to a family recipe. I can still smell calabacitas cooking on the stove next to a pot of pinto beans and a cast iron pan frying buñuelos.

I consider it an unlikely coincidence that the buñuelos were always ready the moment we arrived at grandma’s. She’d make herself a cup of instant Folgers coffee, fill a plate with the warm, sweet, fried bread dusted in cinnamon and sugar, then we’d settle into a game of Yahtzee.

Calabacitas is a shining example of healthy food. Not only are the ingredients generally accessible, but they are also low in cost and the final product delivers an abundance of flavor and nutrition. This is especially true when you pair it with beans because beans and corn make a complete protein. Grandma knew best!

Three simple ingredients can provide the base for your calabacitas, or you can add to it. The matriarchs in my family always included these ingredients, so I do too: zucchini, corn, onion, bell pepper (red for color or poblano for more spice), green chiles, cumin, cilantro, salt and pepper.

For more

La Plata County Extension is looking for families with teens to participate in a family program that helps teens be healthier and feel happier. Visit www.laplataextension.org (then to Family and Consumer Science) for details.

OK, there was this time when I added smoked gouda and chorizo. It was delicious, but the dietitian in me advised against making this version every time, to my husband’s dismay. Unfortunately, the inner voice said the same thing about buñuelos. I suppose it’s a treat I’ll reserve for the days when I am the matriarch anxiously awaiting a visit from grandkids.

Texture preferences are personal, but I have a sneaking suspicion people would eat and enjoy more vegetables if they weren’t cooked to death.

To ensure calabacitas maintains some mouthfeel, I cook the vegetables in stages. Start with chopped onions, then chopped peppers. Next, add diced zucchini, minced garlic and cumin. Shortly thereafter, you add the corn, diced green chiles and fresh cilantro. Once the last addition is made, continue to heat over medium-high and gently mix, just until the entire dish is warmed. Then, you remove from heat and finish with salt and pepper to taste.

Any meal that can be transformed into multiple meals is a winner in my book. Yet another reason to love calabacitas. Combine it with a scrambled egg and wrap it in a tortilla for a delightful breakfast burrito. Serve with canned beans and a Caesar salad for a quick vegetarian dinner. Or, top it off with grilled steak or chicken and serve with sliced cucumbers and lime juice on the side.

While I wish I could invite you into grandmas kitchen for calabacitas, the best I can do now is invite you to view the recipe on the La Plata County Extension Family and Consumer Science webpage (www.laplataextension.org). Fill your weekly meal plan with calabacitas, and fill your table with the people you love most.

Nicole Clark is the family and consumer science agent for the La Plata County Extension Office. Reach her at nicole.clark@colostate.edu or 382-6461.