CreativEating

Try it, you might like it!

Archive for the month “November, 2012”

Fall/Winter Sweet Potato, Kale & Quinoa

Once upon a time I bought kale to be healthy. Then I realized I found kale scary. So, I decided to pair it with delicious spicy sausage & cook it with beer to make it less scary. And this was a success, especially considering it only takes like 20 minutes to make.

What you need:

  • 1 or 2 sweet potatoes
  • Dark or pumpkin beer (I used a leftover post-halloween pumpkin beer, but I bet a gingerbread ale, any old porter or really any wintery ale would do)
  • Kale (mmm vitamin A and fiber)
  • Spicy (chicken, vegan, whatever ) sausage
  • Garlic & Onions (always)
  • Soy sauce, cayenne, nutmeg (all optional)
  • Olive oil
  • Quinoa
  • 3 tea bags (optional, but I did Orange Pekoe quinoa with this and it was tasty)

 

Step 1: Chop stuffs

Chop up your sausage into bite size pieces. After washing your knife& cutting board (gotta be careful about cross contamination!), dice ½ an onion, chop your (peeled) sweet potato into 1” chunks, and cut your washed kale into strips.

If you’ve made any type of greens before (like the lovely rainbow chard, or collards etc.) it’s pretty much the same deal. Except with kale the stem doesn’t continue through the leaf as much, so just snap off the stemy ends and slice up the leafy parts. An FYI, you will need a lot of greens for each serving (remember they cook down A LOT) so don’t be shy about the kale.

Step 2: Make quinoa

Here is where I followed a similar method to the ginger tea soba noodles and put on the water for the quinoa (follow instructions on the box, I always use to much water and mess it up so here is one place I condone measuring). Steep 3 tea bags in the hot (it doesn’t need to be fully boiling) water for 3 to 5 minutes before putting in the quinoa. Then cook quinoa as directed (I sound like an Rx commercial).

Step 3: Potatoes and Beer

Add in your sweet potato chunks to the pan with a touch of olive oil. Then immediately poor into the pan about 1/3 of a bottle (my math tells me this would be 4 ounces which is about ½ a cup).

Cover with a lid, stirring the potatoes around every couple minutes. If the beer evaporates completely from the pan but your potatoes aren’t softened yet (which is the sign they’re done), add a bit more, remember we’re being creative here!

The idea is that the flavors from the beer cook into the potatoes as it cooks down. When the potatoes are nearly tender enough that you’d like to eat one (about 7 or 8 minutes depending on the size of your potato chunks), move to the next step.

Step 4: Sauté sausage, onions & garlic

Throw the chopped up sausage, onions and a teaspoon (1 clove is enough) of minced garlic with another  dash of olive oil. Cook on medium heat until the onions soften. Most times the sausage is precooked so that matters a lot less. If yours isn’t, make sure that gets cooked all the way through. If it’s precooked this part really takes like 3 minutes.

Step 5: Kale

Now, on top of all the potatoes, sautéed onions and sausage, start to throw in the kale. You may need to do this in stages to get it all in the pan, and if it starts to stick at all, sprinkle just one more dash of olive oil in (it’s good for you, quit fretting about it).

When your kale is all wilted, you’re good to go. Remove from heat, and scrape the bottom as you toss everything around. You want that good flavor from the seared sausage and beer cooked sweet potatoes.

Step 6: Get it together

By now hopefully your quinoa is all cooked, so scoop that on a plate/in a bowl. Spoon on top some potato, sausage, kale, onion mixture. Here you can add a sprinkle of soy sauce if you want to add some salty Asian kick to the deal or a dash of cayenne or splash of nutmeg. It’s all optional.

Enjoy your healthy meal & hearty meal! This was a great dinner and great left over lunch, especially for the effort which is super low. For some reason I didn’t take a picture of it all together (SORRY!) but you get the idea. Try it, you really might like it. I know I was surprised it turned out so yummy.

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A Thanksgiving Cartoon

From one of my favorite internet cartoonists Natalie Dee we have some inspiring Thanksgiving directions.

Her title for this? “Generally speaking you should figure out how much you need and double it”  This is certainly a holiday tradition I abide by.

And also this one from Nov. 2008 because I do (I’m ashamed to admit it) love the jelly cranberry sauce. Don’t judge.

 

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. Remember to be appreciative of the food you’re preparing and enjoying, and gracious with family member’s egos, opinions and back handed compliments. Enjoy!

And new header credit…

Thanks to Olympia Farmers Market for the excellent seasonal photo too!  I don’t even like beets but they look great here! Maybe I’ll have to eat some yet this year…

Butternut Squash & Parmigiano Pasta (a healthier mac & cheese)

So I’m a HUGE fan of mac & cheese. It’s a meal, it’s a side, it’s a life style. And my all-time favorite is Ina Garten’s  Mac & Cheese. I generally leave out the tomatoes, but do lots of add ins. Last Easter I made 3 types of this recipe, one plain, one broccoli & bacon, and one spicy chicken, roasted red pepper & tomato. HUGE hits. But sometimes your brain is annoying and says to you “Hey! A plate of mac & cheese is not that healthy, and eating it for leftovers for a week is REALLY artery clogging, please pick something else.” And in those moments, I suggest Butternut Squash & Parmigiano-Reggiano Mac (you can use good old Parmesan too, I just went  fancy when I did mine).

This came to be because I had a butternut squash and no idea what to do with it. I’ve done roasted acorn squash, but wanted to try something different. And then I found a few recipes I could play off of and started getting super excited. Wanna see the end result now? I don’t blame you… TADA!

Ok, now that you’re convinced this looks amazing, I want to insert a small disclaimer. This recipe can take awhile. BUT it’s worth it and reheats really well so it’ll make a great holiday addition, and leftover favorite. But it’s no 30 minute meal with Rachel Ray (I’m less annoying than her though so that has to count for something).

Things You Need:

Food stuff:

  • A butternut squash
  • Minced garlic
  • Cooking white wine (optional)
  • Onion
  • Butter/Olive oil
  • Mushrooms
  • Sour cream or plain greek yogurt
  • Milk (I used 1% but it doesn’t matter)
  • Chicken stock (optional)
  • Parmesan or Parmigiano-reggiano (fresh, and grated)
  • Sage (fresh, only a few leaves needed)
  • Box of large shell pasta (really any pasta is fine, but we used shells and it seemed to work well)
  • Salt & pepper (sea salt and fresh ground pepper corns are best, but use whatcha got)

Other stuff

  • Handblender & container to blend in (I use a cylinder pitcher for this as narrow containers seem to work better than wide bowls, and this way it’s easy to poor… but trial and error sometimes is the best strategy for finding a good blending container)

Step 1: Roast the Squash

Alright, real step one is cutting the squash, which is no small feat, but then you roast it. So first, cutting it. Get a sharp knife, sharpest you have. Winter squash are notoriously hard and you really can hurt yourself trying to saw through them with a crappy knife, so sharpen that thing up. Now, lay the squash on its side and cut off the bottom and the top (carefully! Like so…. )

THEN stand it on its now flat bottom and cut down through the middle long ways.

Once you’ve split your squash, scoop out the seeds and stringy parts and either keep them to roast or toss them out. In the bottom of a baking dish (big enough for both sides of squash to fit in fleshy side down) add ¼ cup of white wine and 2 tablespoons of minced garlic. Cover the dish lightly in foil and put this in the oven at around 400 degrees for about an hour.

At about 45 minutes in, check the squash to see how soft it is. You want to check a few spots. If a fork doesn’t go in easily, it needs more time. Make sure there is still liquid in the bottom (if not, add 1/8 cup of water or white wine) and return it to the oven. You want the squash to be soft enough to scoop out easily and blend easily.

 

Step 2: Sauté the Onions & Mushrooms

While the squash is cooking, sauté ½ a yellow or white onion in olive oil or butter over medium heat. When the onion is soft and starting to brown just a little, remove from heat and add to the container you’ll use for blending the sauce.

Yes I use mugs as prep bowls, don’t you? They have handles!

When the onions are done, toss 1 package of mushrooms (sliced) into the same pan (adding a bit more oil or butter if needed) with ½ teaspoon of minced garlic. Cook on medium high heat until soft and starting to brown up. Pull the pan from heat when done and set aside.

 

Step 3: Prep the Sauce & Pasta

After cooking the onions (or during if you’re REALLY good at multi-tasking while cooking) grate 1 cup of Parmigiano-reggiano cheese into the sauce blending container. Grate about ½ a cup in a bowl on the side for topping the plates later.

Now add 1/3 teaspoon of sea salt, 5 sage leaves (chopped up into small bits), and 1/2 cup of milk to the blending container too. If you want to use the chicken stock (adds a little salty depth to the sauce) you can use half milk, half broth.

When this is ready to go, put on your water for the pasta. All these moving parts may not be timed perfectly, but that’s ok. If the pasta finishes first, strain it and set it aside. If the sauce is finished first, no big deal, just set the blended stuff aside and wait for the pasta.

 

Step 4: Sauce it up

When the squash is done and soft, take it out of the oven, remove the cover and let it cool a little. You don’t want to burn yourself while scooping out the yummy stuff. When it’s cool enough to handle, use a metal spoon to scoop out the flesh into your blending container on top of the other ingredients.

Now blend this A LOT. Use a spatula or spoon to make sure the stuff on the bottom is getting included and blend again – you really can’t over blend this, so when in doubt, give it another surge. If it’s VERY thick, add milk 1 tablespoon or so at a time. Remember you still have sour cream to add though, so don’t make it too thin.

Bare with the awkward picture, it’s hard to take pictures of this process!

Step 5: Putting it all Together

Drop your pasta back in the pan it cooked in on the stove. Add 1 cup of sour cream/plain yogurt, and pour in the blended squash mixture. You may not need all of the blended squash stuff, so put in ½ or so, stir and add more if needed. This depends a lot on the size of your squash, so it’s hard to get the perfect amount each time. If you have extra, make some more pasta and keep for left overs (or freeze the sauce alone for later to reheat, add sour cream to and eat over pasta at another date).

Doesn’t it look like mac & cheese?

Heat this mixture on low until everything is to your preferred temperature. Add salt and pepper to taste (we liked it a bit saltier to balance out the sweetness of the squash, but it’s definitely a preference thing)

When your creamy deliciousness coats the shells and is hot enough, dish it out. Lay a spoonful of mushrooms on top and a sprinkle of grated Parmigiano-reggiano cheese. You can serve smaller portions with a side caesar salad too which is healthier and delicious.

This is a great fall dish, one great for large groups too if you want to make it for Thanksgiving or Christmas. It reheats well (just add a sprinkle of milk or water before reheating) and is delicious for lunch throughout the week, so I found. We’ll definitely make again.

Enjoy!

 

Pumpkin Seeds (3 Ways)

Ok, so I know Halloween was like 2 weeks ago. But between a hurricane, travel and other distractions we didn’t even carve our pumpkins until the day of anyway so there was no way to get up the pumpkin seed making ‘in time’ to be super useful to you. LUCKILY, pumpkins are still in season and perhaps you have some pumpkin pies or soups coming up in your recipe book yet that you can use fresh (instead of canned… though it’s pretty good too) pumpkin for and get some seeds. Alternatively, you can buy raw pumpkin seeds (called ‘pepitas’ for some reason) a lot of places, including Trader Joes.

Anyway, all that aside, I made 3 types of seeds this year:

  • Mexican cocoa (aka spicy chocolate)
  • Traditional (which for us is salty, slightly garlicy, paprika’d deliciousness)
  • Rosemary apple (totally because we had these items… but they turned out pretty damn good)

So first a few things about pumpkin seed making:

  1. They burn easily, so using slightly lower heat for longer helps prevent you from doing this. I like to go with 300 degrees Fahrenheit. I leave them in for 10 minutes, and then test them every 2 after that. It can take awhile, especially if they’re super fresh (right out of the pumpkin) or for things like cocoa that hold moisture rather than salt that wicks out moisture. You want to get the seeds to a point where they are crunchy, not chewy.
  2. You can either leave some pumpkin goop residue on the seeds to get flavors to stick OR wash and dry your seeds to get the goop off and then toss them in a teeny bit of egg white before adding spices etc. Either way is fine. This year I went with egg white, previously I’ve gone with goop. I don’t think it makes one bit of difference.
  3. Seeds don’t keep super long. Even in plastic bags they tend to get a little chewy after a day or so. You can re-roast them for a few minutes at 300 to recrisp them.

Ok, now to the flavors!!! First, the seeds came out of these two awesome pumpkins (kitty didn’t help, she’s just looking fierce here)

The first, and my favorite:

Mexican Cocoa

What you need:

  • Cocoa powder
  • Cayenne pepper (the ground powdery kind)
  • Cinnamon
  • Sugar (the really fine stuff if you have it)
  • Salt

In a bowl, combine 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder, 1/3 tsp of cayenne, 1/2 tsp of cinnamon (or more, if you’re pro-cinnamon), 1 tablespoon of sugar and  1/3 tsp of salt. Stir these together.Then toss 1 cup of seeds (either with the pumpkin goop intact or tossed in 1 tablespoon of whisked egg whites) into the mix.

Here comes the fun part. Grease a cookie sheet. Now try to spread these out in a single layer on the cookie sheet. Most likely you’ll end up coated in fudgy goo while doing this (the egg white and the sugar and the cocoa make a delicious enemy). If you’re feeling like a risk taker, lick your fingers when you’re done though, it’s yummy!

At 325 these will take around 20 minutes, but start testing after 15 or so just in case. Mine took a good bit longer b/c I put in too much egg white… it’s a delicate thing. But it’s worth it – these were AMAZING. As a note, they will probably need to be re-crisped after 24 hours or so in a baggy, but at 300 degrees for a few minutes they re-crisp pretty well.


Traditional (Salty)

What you need:

  • Paprika
  • Garlic Powder
  • Black pepper
  • Salt

Ok, so same idea here. 1 1/2 tablespoons of paprika, 1/2 tsp of garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon of salt (if you don’t want them garlicy, but just salty, just use no garlic salt and 1/4 teaspoon of salt) and 1/4 tsp (a dash or two really) of black pepper. These are really salty, so if you’re not keen on that, cut back the salty items and up the paprika or pepper. Just a preference.
Toss a cup of seeds (with goop or egg whites) in this mixture and spread in a single layer on a greased cookie sheet. This should be easier than with the chocolate ones, no worries.

Check these after 12 minutes. They cook up fast with all the salt, and are yummy fresh out of the oven! And they stay crispy crunchy longer than the other 2 flavors, so great for taking to work the next day or giving as a gift (within a few days)


Rosemary Apple

Ok, the invented flavor. What you need:

  • 1/2 an apple (any type, I used gala I think) diced into small pieces
  • Fresh rosemary (the leaves off one good sprig) chopped to the smallest bits you can muster
  • Garlic powder
  • Salt

You know the drill. Mix the spices (fresh rosemary chopped, 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder, 1/8 teaspoon of salt) and the apples in a bowl. Then drop in the seeds. These actually probably need less egg white to them because of the moisture from the apple bits. I didn’t reduce the egg white and they took quite awhile, but really were tasty.

Put them on a greased baking sheet and toss them in. At 325 these take at least 20 minutes if not more. Depends on how juicy the apple was, really. Also, there will be some sticky browned apple juice on the pan this time, not much you can do about that. But these taste pretty yummy and look super festive and holiday-ish. Could be a great appetizer for Thanksgiving or Christmas for sure.

As a note, they will probably need to be re-crisped after a day in a ziplock, but at 300 degrees for a few minutes they re-crisp well.

Let me know what flavors of pumpkin seeds you made this year. Any plans to make more? I think I may buy some raw pepitas tonight to make up for a snack. Hmmm… which to make… ENJOY!

Vote! And posting delays…

First, GO VOTE! Don’t give me that ‘my vote doesn’t count’ BS… I sincerely don’t want to hear it. Do it. Only vote local, vote 3rd party, I don’t care. Participate.

Ok, Second, Just want to say sorry for the slow posting lately. I’m going to try to do some this week but I’m on client site for work w/o open internet. This means my laptop is actually really a word processor. It’s hilarious. And by hilarious I mean please kill me now. I’m tethering my phone right now… which is going to be expensive soon. So, all that to say, hopefully Wed or Thursday night I’ll have a new post up. Maybe both! I have a few dinners/snacks lined up to write about so it should be soon.

Thanks for reading, thanks for participating in civil society, and have a great election results night.

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