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Archive for the tag “fall”

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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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!

 

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!

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)!

Pumpkin Southwestern Chicken Soup

I love all things texmex – all of them (except when people put olives on nachos… seriously? olives? ew.) Anyway… this adoration really conflicts with my desire to eat healthy. Cheese, sour cream, refried beans, chips & guac… nom nom nom. SO, a few years ago I decided to make chicken tortilla soup. It’s pretty healthy considering, but still gives that delicious texmex flavor to dinner. Win win.

Then one fall I made a homemade pumpkin pie. Not like out of a can pumpkin, I mean like we roasted a pie pumpkin, pureed the pumpkin pulp etc. It took forever, but it was worth it. If you get the chance this year to make a from scratch pumpkin pie with fresh sugar pumpkin and honey etc. do it.  But from this pumpkin pie, I had some leftover pumpkin puree. So, in true me fashion, I decided, why not make this into a soup? Why not combine good things then and make pumpkin chicken tortilla soup? And you know what? Great idea. So here’s how you make it. It helps if you have some left over roasted chicken around so you don’t have to make it just for soup. But you could if you want. Luckily I made a whole chicken the other day, so we had some in the house. This recipe won out over Southern chicken salad… it’s that good.

Step One: Get out your trusty crockpot (if you don’t own a crock pot, I GUESS you can use a pot on the stove. But really, just go get one. They’re not very expensive, and you don’t need a fancy one.) Set it to high.

Step Two: Chop up the basic soup veggies: onions, celery, carrots, garlic. Add in there some bell pepper too (and if you have some chop up a few jarred roasted red peppers). Then pour in a can or two of green chilies.  If you have fresh ones, by all means use those. I also toss in 1 chopped seeded (aka take out the seeds) jalapeno. But that’s optional of course.

mmm peppers

Step Three: Add some more stuff! A few cups of chicken broth (I use the box kind, but if you have your own around, that’s good too!), and a few handfuls of leftover roasted chicken (If you don’t have any cooked chicken you have two options: either cook up a chicken breast/a few thighs on the stove and shread, or throw them into the crockpot raw and shread after fully cooked which they will be after a few hours). With that you need to pile on black beans and pumpkin puree too.  As I’m too lazy right now to make pumpkin puree from scratch, I used the ubiquitous fall canned pumpkin this time.

Sorry for the slightly blurry pic… new phone is almost set up so better photos to come.

Step Four: Ok, you’re almost there. Easiest part: add a couple cups of water. Or, if you have any leftover white wine like I did (perhaps something you didn’t like), you can add a cup or so of that instead. Both good.

Step Five: Spices time! Cumin (at least 3 teaspoons), chili powder (same amount here), salt (a pinch or two), black pepper (fresh pepper corns if you have them). The sneakiest ingredient here, to bring out the pumpkin…. nutmeg (add at least 1.5 teaspoons… to taste of course like everything else. I like a bit more)

Step Five: Put the lid on and leave the crock pot alone on high for about 4 hours. This makes this an ideal candidate for all day or all night cooking (if you leave it all day, feel free to go down to low, it’ll get to a boil at low after about 5 hours). BUT while you’re waiting… you should make some pico de gallo for the top.

BONUS STEP: Pico de gallo. Chop up 1/2 an onion (red is best, any works), 1/2 a jalapeno (again, w/o seeds) one or two tomatoes, and cilantro to taste (the more the better in my book). Pinch of salt on top is optional. You can also add 1/2 a chopped avocado if you’re feeling so inclined.

When you serve your soup, dollop some of this pico mix right in the middle before eating/serving. Adds a little kick, and the cilantro isn’t too soaked in the soup this way. Perfect (and lovely I might add)

And a thank you

Oh, also, I will be changing the banner photo by the season to fit what foods are available and at least semi-locally available for eating/cooking with. While I hope to have more of my own pictures soon, I’d like to say thanks to Volante Farms (in Needham MA) for this lovely squash/pumpkin/gourd photo which I borrowed from their blog. Thanks Volante Farms and google images.

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