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Our Meatless Monday nights have been a bit boring lately – lots of soups. I thought we needed to spice it up a bit, and this stuffed squash recipe was just the ticket.

Stuffed Acorn Squash
Adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook

Ingredients
2 acorn squash, halved and seeded
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup wild rice
1 onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp dried thyme (or 1 tsp fresh)
1 tsp coriander
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
2 tbsp walnuts, chopped
1 tbsp butter
4 tsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush the cut sides of the squash with olive oil and then season them with salt and pepper. Roast them until tender, usually about 50 minutes. When they are finished roasting, increase the oven to 450 degrees.

In the meantime, boil two cups of water. When the water reaches a boil, add the wild rice, cover and simmer until the rice is tender and all of the water is absorbed.

With the remaining olive oil, saute the onion and celery over medium-low heat until the vegetables are soft. Stir in the garlic, thyme, coriander and cook just until fragrant (less than a minute).

Remove the vegetables from the heat, and stir in the wild rice, 3/4 cup of the Parmesan, the walnuts and butter. Season with salt and pepper.

By now the squash should be done. Scoop out the flesh, leaving a thin layer of squash in the shell to help support the fillings. Fold the squash into the wild rice mixture, and then scoop out the mixture into each shell (about one cup in each shell). Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan and bake until the cheese is melted, about ten minutes. Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and serve.

Tips

  • Don’t be like me and cut the squash the wrong way, so that it has to be propped up on everyone’s plates. It really takes away from the ambiance of the dish. You want to cut it so that the stem is at the top. I’m sure this is totally obvious to the rest of you.
  • This is ripe for variations – the original recipe called for barley and pine nuts, but I thought wild rice sounded tasty and I didn’t have any pine nuts. Quinoa, bulgur, farro…any of those would be delicious.
  • We had leftover “stuffing” that we just used as a side for dinner the following night. It was so tasty that I think I’ll make extra stuffing to stand on its own next time I make this.

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I’ve made entirely too many trips to Kroger and Whole Foods lately. Granted, many of those trips were due to excessive holiday baking, but I miss the farmer’s market and our CSA! I love that part of the summer. I was in such withdrawal that we headed over to Trader’s Point Creamery last weekend to hit up their Winter Market.

Our goal for the winter is hit up all of the local winter markets…

Use these helpful tips to plan your list before heading to a winter market this year!

I don’t like to admit this, but one of Grant’s favorite meals that I make is sloppy joes. I wish it were something a little healthier and somehow more glamorous, but what can you do? Homemade sloppy joes are so easy, so they’re a go-to meal around here when I’m home late from work, everyone’s hungry, and I haven’t planned anything for dinner. Try some soon!

Sloppy Joes
Very loosely adapted from Rachael Ray long ago

Ingredients
1 pound ground beef/pork/chicken/turkey (it works great for any of these meat choices, but ground pork is my favorite)
1 tbsp McCormick Montreal steak seasoning (my mom makes us a homemade version of this every year for Christmas. I don’t want to ask for the recipe quite yet for fear of not getting it for Christmas, but I think it’s quite similar to this recipe)
2 tbsp real maple syrup (or brown sugar if you would prefer – if using brown sugar, use about 1/4 cup)
1 medium onion, diced
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp Worcester sauce
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/3 cup water

Directions

Brown the meat. As the meat is browning, add the maple syrup and seasoning. Once the meat has browned, add the onions and cook on medium-low until the onions are translucent. Add the red wine vinegar and stir into the meat and onion mixture. Next add the Worcester sauce and stir, and then add the tomato paste and water. Stir until thoroughly combined. Simmer on low for about 15-20 minutes until the sauce has thickened. Serve on toasted buns – with something green please!

Tips:

  • When they’re in season (or frozen in our freezer), I like to add a diced red pepper just after the onions for some extra flavor and to get an extra veggie in there.
  • I like to make a little “paste” of butter and minced garlic that I spread on the buns and then broiler in the oven for a few minutes.
  • If you like your joes a little thinner, use a bit more water.
  • I like to double the batch and freeze the leftovers, which makes for a really quick meal for another night.

I made these the other night because I was home late from work and had a meeting that evening. I had hopes of getting a picture of some of the leftovers at least, but the boys ruined that plan by eating every last morsel. I’ll try to add a picture next time around!

 

We’re in the heat of the presidential primary season, and I thought today’s selection from Mr. Berry was especially salient in light of this being the first presidential election since the Citizens United vs. FEC court ruling last year, which made “Super PAC” an everyday word in today’s new’s cycle.

The folly at the root of this foolish economy began with the idea that a corporation should be regarded, legally, as “a person.” But the limitless destructiveness of this economy comes about precisely because a corporation is not a person. A corporation, essentially, is a pile of money to which a number of persons have sold their moral allegiance. Unlike a person, a corporation does not age. It does not arrive, as most persons finally do, at a realization of the shortness and smallness of human lives; it does not come to see the future as the lifetime of the children and grandchildren of anybody in particular. It can experience no personal hope or remorse, no change of heart. It cannot humble itself. It goes about its business as if it were immortal, with the single purpose of becoming a bigger pile of money. The stockholders essentially are usurers, people who “let their money work for them,” expecting high pay in return for causing others to work for low pay. The World Trade Organization enlarges the old idea of the corporation-as-person by giving the global corporate economy the status of a super-government with the power to overrule nations.

Wendell Berry
What Matters? Economics for a Renewed Commonwealth

In addition to being a bit of a foodie, I also have a little side hobby when it comes to researching training/working out methodologies and programs – and usually actually following through and doing them too.

I know this space tends to focus on food + gardening, but I also like to think that it is a place to encourage care for creation. I’m of the belief that you can’t do much to take care of the creation around you if you aren’t taking care of yourself (i.e. you’re creation too!). I came across this video a few weeks ago and can’t stop thinking about it. I read quite a bit about various training fads, some good and some bad. I think there are some great and healthy options out there when it comes to fitness, but I can’t help but think that if everyone just incorporated this one, very simple practice into their daily lives that we would all feel better, be much healthier and have more energy for gardening, cooking and whatever else you enjoy doing. And if you do more on top of your daily walk, great! Watch this and let me know what you think:

 

Happy new year! I’m already sketching out plans for next year’s home garden and the Grace Garden, especially with all of this warm weather we’ve had lately.  What are your garden and kitchen related resolutions for 2012?

I know this recipe is soo last season, but we’ve been eating it quite a bit around here. We sometimes sub out the pumpkin for another winter squash or even sweet potatoes (Grant’s favorite variation). I try to make a big pan of it on Monday, and it typically lasts us through the week. If you haven’t tried steel cut oats yet, make it one of your new year’s resolutions to get on the bandwagon. I still love rolled oats for baked goods, but I’ve become totally a steel cut girl when it comes to breakfast.

Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal
Barely adapted from Annie’s Eats

Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal
Printer-Friendly Version

Ingredients1 cup steel cut oats
6 tbsp butter
4 cups hot water
2 medium very ripe bananas, sliced
1/3 cup local honey
2-3 tsp. ground cinnamon
3 cups rolled (not instant!) oats
1/4 cup cup maple syrup
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
Dash ground cloves
1/2 cup pumpkin puree (see note at bottom of recipe)
1/2 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350. Place the steel cut oats in a large bowl with four tablespoons of the butter. Pour the hot water over the oats and cover the bowl.  Let stand for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the remaining two tablespoons of butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the bananas, two tablespoons of honey, and one teaspoon of the cinnamon to the pan.  Toss gently and cook briefly. Remove from the heat and let cool.

After the steel cut oats have finished soaking, stir in the rolled oats, remaining honey, maple syrup, remaining cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.  In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together the pumpkin, milk and vanilla.  Stir the pumpkin mixture into the oat mixture.

Spread the bananas over the bottom of a lightly greased 9×13 baking dish.  Pour the oatmeal mixture on top of the bananas.  Bake for 35-40 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before serving.

To make your own pumpkin puree: 

As previously mentioned, we have a wonderful you-pick farm just minutes from our house. They also have a pumpkin patch complete with free hayrides in the Fall (so of course, we had to go a few times because our little guy wants to BE Farmer Spencer when he grows up). We picked up several pumpkins for our porch and some pie pumpkins too. I learned there that pie pumpkins are often no different than regular pumpkins except that they were selectively bred to have thinner skins and a consistent amount of “meat” versus the regular jack-o-lantern variety.

Making your own pumpkin puree is so easy! Preheat your oven to 350. Then just clean your pumpkin, cut it in half, and remove all of the seeds. Put just a little bit of water in the bottom of your baking pan, and then place the pumpkin halves face down on the pan. Bake for about 45 minutes or until soft (a fork should easily go through the skin when it’s done). Once the pumpkins have cooled, scoop out the pumpkin meat and place it in a food processor or blender for just a minute. If your puree is too watery, place the pureed pumpkin in a fine sieve over a bowl or the sink for a half hour or so. I’ve noticed that I can typically skip this step with the pie pumpkins.

While the pumpkins are baking, rinse out the seeds, spread them out on a baking sheet, and sprinkle with salt, pepper and cumin (or the spice combination of your choice). Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes or so – until crunchy. Grant likes to put these on his salad, and Jas and I like to snack on them in trail mix.

One pie pumpkin tends to make about two – three cups of pumpkin puree, so use some for some baked oatmeal and freeze the rest for some other pumpkin treat.

 

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