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Archive for the tag “dinner”

Wild Rice Pilaf Stuffed Acorn Squash

Oh my – time flies when you get sick and don’t blog! Sorry for the delays!

I bought an acorn squash over a week ago and finally got to cooking it. I will admit – I’m not a huge squash fan. I find the texture a little weird, and the flavor mostly nonexistent. But it’s fall, and so squash cheaply abounds in all it’s takes-an-eternity-to-go-bad glory, which is enough for me to buy and cook it. USUALLY I’d roast an acorn squash open faced with lots of butter, brown sugar/maple syrup, cinnamon, and nutmeg. BUT dessert squash defeats a little bit of the point. So I tried something else to some success.

Things you need:

  • 1 acorn squash
  • Cup of wild rice (actually I use a ‘brown rice medley’ from Trader Joe’s that I particularly like for it’s mixed texture… but really you could use any rice. I’d suggest a hearty rice though for sure)
  • Chicken broth (enough to make your rice, usually double the amount of dry rice you make, more or less)
  • Carrots, onions, celery (more = more flavor), any other veggies you wish (I threw in a few mushrooms too and some frozen peas for good measure because I love them)
  • Garlic, salt & black pepper, olive oil (always unless you’re making dessert)
  • Almond slivers (optional, but like in the other greens recipe, they worked well in the pilaf. Could sub pine nuts or sunflower seeds too)
  • Savory herbs of your choosing (thyme, rosemary, celery seed, oregano, parsley, tarragon… I used the first three, about a pinch each… could have used more)
  • Butter (of faux butter like Earth Balance)

As an aside, we also made some sauteed spinach (with bacon, worcestershire sauce and mustard) on the side… but that’ll be another blog sometime…

Ok, Step 1: Cook the wild rice. Wild rice is tough and resilient, so no worries about over cooking it really by cooking it in the broth on the stove top and then piling it in the acorn squash to roast up. If you’re nervous about mushy rice (clearly you have some anxiety issues, but that’s ok, we all have our things) you can cook it about 30 minutes and then pull it off of heat.

Step 2: Chop. Chop some more. Chop the onions and carrots and celery, and any fresh herbs (put any fresh herbs chopped to the side, away from the veggies which we’re gonna saute)

Step 3: While you have the knife and cutting board out, cut through that acorn squash too. Be careful – they’re hard vegetables and you don’t want to push so hard you slip and cut your fingers. A tip – cut a small slit in the squash with the tip of a knife and then use that slot to press into to cut all the way through. You can cut an acorn squash up and down along a ridge or right across the middle more horizontally… no matter.

When that’s all done, you gotta take out the inside. Like a pumpkin, the inside is a little mushy and weird and full of seed (you can roast these later if you wish like pumpkin seeds too). I use a grapefruit spoon for scraping out all the weird slippery strings and that works great.

Step 4: When your rice is about 10 minutes from being done cooking (either fully or to your desired partial cooking if you have that rice anxiety), turn your oven to 400 degrees, and turn a burner on medium with your trusty cast iron (or less trusty other pan if you must). In the pan, add 2 tablespoons olive oil, teaspoon (1 clove) minced garlic,  your chopped veggies and your almonds if they’re raw (like ours were… seriously, raw almonds… silly). Saute them until the onions start to get clear and then turn off the burner.

Step 5: Mix up that wild rice pilaf. Add the cooked rice, sauteed veggies, and herbs to a bowl and fold together. Taste test. If it needs more herbs, salt, pepper, a dash of worcestershire or soy sauce, some Mrs. Dash, a hug, whatever – add it. You know what tastes good in your mouth, own that. You want your pilaf to be scrumptious. When you’re at a loss for what it might need, I rely (guiltily I assure you) on chicken bouillon and add it teeny bit by teeny bit. A little salty (often MSG laden) powder goes a LONG WAY.

Step 6: Place your acorn squash halves on a baking dish (so you know, acorn squash are fat and hard to fit in normal pans… silly nature). Add a tablespoon or so of butter (or non-butter)  in each half as well as a sprinkle of salt and pepper and maybe some dried herbs for good measure. I was running out of butter, so I used less butter and a little olive oil with the dried herbs and rubbed that into the squash. It didn’t make much a difference in flavor to do this though so it’s probably easier to just add all the unnecessary herbs to the pilaf and skip all that olive oil rub stuffs.  Pile rice pilaf on top of that, pressing in a bit so you can get a good portion in the squash.

Step 7: Cover lightly with foil, pop in the oven for about 45 minutes. Some other recipes have you make the acorn squash, then fill it with pilaf… either way. I like that they all cook together. Seems right to me.

Step 8: Remove from the oven, plate (we sprinkles some chia seeds on top for fun) and enjoy! TADA – fancy looking dinner with normal ingredients and SUPER good for you. I’d suggest drinking some wine with it to balance out all those vitamins… no need to be extreme.

Happy fall eating!

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Greens Make the Best Quick Meals

Over the weekend my friend Ami and I made our way out to Larriland Farm for their Pick Your Own style of fun. This time of year of course apples come to mind, and we did pick many of those… Matsus, and Braeburns, and Magnolia Golds and Ida Reds…. all yummy and good for eating or cooking/baking. I can even stack some of them in my window sill with joy 🙂

Anyway, the cool thing about this place was that not only did they have multiple varieties of apples and a pumpkin patch but they also have pick-your-own a lot of other things, like spinach and tomatoes and beets and swiss chard (next spring & summer I will be doing this drive a few times for really fresh pick-my-own veggies). So I decided to get some lovely rainbow chard. But then I had to figure out how to cook said chard. My friend Jessi gave me a recipe, but it would have meant I had to go to the store and buy fresh ginger which was too much work for me at that moment. SO… here’s what we threw together for dinner.

  • Herb and panko crusted chicken breast (split one between two of us)
  • Garlicy swiss chard with almonds and goat cheese crumbles
  • “Baked” potatoes in the microwave because it’s easy and we had some soon-to-be-trash-not-food potatoes

Ok, so chicken first because I don’t do anything special with that. I just washed and patted dry a chicken breast and then rubbed rosemary, thyme and paprika on it, and then pressed on some panko crumbs (we were out of eggs so no dip… ended up fine). I seared both sides in the cast iron and a little olive oil and some onion chunks, then put the lid on for 20 minutes – perfect. The panko crumbs got a tid bit burned, but so it goes. Still tasted yummy to us.

More interestingly and lovelier… swiss chard!

Step 1: First, chop up the chard (even the stems – they’re good too!)

Step 2: Throw the stemmier pieces in a skillet with a few teaspoons of oil (more than just to prevent sticking) and a some minced garlic (we use the jar kind that’s pre-minced and packed in oil, but if you’re a purist, 2 or 3 cloves through a garlic press). Let that all saute for a few minutes to soften up the stems a bit.

Step 3: Then add in the leafy bits. You may have to do this in stages, as greens take up a lot of space raw and wilt down to nearly nothing by the end. You can throw some onions in there too if you have some around/left over (as we always do). AND toss in some almonds. We just happened to have some raw almond slices from something I made awhile ago, and I figured they’d go well in here. They did.

Step 4: So let that cook down a little bit, push it around the pan, you know. It’s super easy. Seriously when people say ‘I can’t even cook spaghetti’  that means nothing. Pasta timing is WAY more complicated than making greens. See? So easy and steamy and pretty!

Step 5: Ok then when you have about 2 minutes until you want to eat and the chicken is done and the greens are wilty and bright green (like above) put the potatoes in the microwave. Small ones really only take 2 minutes (it’s like magic).

Step 6: AND PLATE! When plating the lovely swiss chard, sprinkle on a little black pepper, a tiny sprinkle of ground cayenne and crumble some goat cheese on top, not too much. This adds a kick and a little creamy bit in every bite and adds some depth to the garlicy greens flavor. I’m a HUGE goat cheese fan though, so if you’re not, well… you’re wrong and you should try it anyway.

Tada, 20 minute meal (give or take) and pretty darn good for you too. I took the leftover greens to lunch the next day with some rice and black beans and left over pico de gallo from the pumpkin chicken southwestern soup and it was divine too.

Enjoy – and let me know how you like to cook swiss chard (or any favorite green)!

Glorious Veggie Sandwich

I’ve never been much for sandwiches really. In elementary school I even refused PBJ and for over a year alternated between cheese sandwiches (yup, just a slice or two of cheese…. sometimes even kraft ‘cheese’ folded into a piece of bread) or butter sandwiches (which was really just Country Crock pseudo-butter on a folded piece of bread). God forbid my mom try to make me a ham and cheddar or turkey and swiss. Ew ew ew. And while I’ve grown up a bit in my tastes, I did figure out in college why I didn’t like sandwiches — they were so boring and mono-textured! Soft deli meat, soft cheese, soft bread made softer by mayo or mustard — blah. But add cucumbers or sweet pickles? WOW! Who knew I liked sandwiches?

So, though still not my favorite meal, I’ve endeavored to learn to make sandwiches I enjoy eating. And sometimes, my custom veggie sandwich is everything I’ve ever wanted in a food. Here’s how I (usually) do it…

Ingredients: 

Some decent whole grain bread… I like this one, the boyfriend prefers the oat kind… but some tasty nutty bread is best. If you can make your own, even better.

Fresh tomato and cucumber

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus (or whatever flavor you prefer, but this one is the best so pick it)

Plain greek yogurt (totally a stolen photo from http://www.jessicashealthblog.com), mix in a teaspoon of cream cheese if you wish for increased deliciousness, and herbs/seasonings. I go with a little bit of cayenne pepper, garlic salt, cumin or whatever suits my whimsy that day. But really this invented ‘spread’ is the key to sandwich flavor variety.

So spread on that hummus and creamy cheesy herb stuff, and pile on some sprouts (I added yet more after this photo). They add crunch and if you get something like onion sprouts it can add some oomph too.

Then those ripe yummy summer tomatoes…

And then the sliced cukes and a piece of lettuce if you have it around (though it doesn’t add much to the deal honestly)

And TADA…. Veggie Sandwich of Glory!

SEE? Doesn’t it look tasty? (it is trust me)

Though, I do have a warning… it is hard to eat and hard to travel with. This is due to it’s size and amount of uncompromising awesomeness. See? It doesn’t even fit in a normal baggie. It’s a plus-sized sandwich. Even better.

You can also fix this up with various mustards (though they aren’t my favorite personally) or add a slice of cheese (muenster works particularly well here) or even add a meat to the mix. The important part is to get some tasty pestos and spreads in there for a variety of flavors and textures and to make a it mostly a pile of interesting veggies. Use that CSA or garden to your advantage!

Let us know what you like to pile onto your specialty sandwich in the comments! I love to try new combinations.

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