Acorn Squash Quinoa
Happy Holidays! A bit late but things have been a little insane around here. In non-food news, we had our first donor IVF cycle a week ago and will be finding out the results later this week/early next. It’s amazing how in some ways time has flown since then but yet in other ways time has stopped – or in the very least is dragging on. I’ve spent a lot of time relaxing, and working on new recipes, but very little time in the kitchen. It hasn’t helped that my oven broke, but figuring out ways around it. Primarily that means lots of stove top cooking and very few baked treats but that’s okay! If anything it gives me a jump start on my New Years Resolution to cut back on sweets, but we’ll see how long that lasts. Today’s recipe is actually one I made right before my transfer, and one that I started working with at the start of fall. Since my house is mostly a nut free zone, I have to find other ways of recreating nutty flavors, usually in the form of sesame seeds. However I’ve become slightly addicted to acorn squash – nutty and sweet and meaty all in one awesomely healthy gourd. I’ve started adding it to everything to see what it does, and does not go with, and so far everything has worked! This dish was one of those cabinet/fridge clearing exercises where a bunch of stuff had to go before it was too late – so into the pan it went!
This dish was a creamy curry success – the acorn squash goes fantastically with the spices and the heat without becoming a mushy mess. I served these with some sesame greens, as some habits are hard to break.
Santa-Fe Rice & Beans
When I saw the /52weeksofcooking challenge for last week, I was a bit thrown. TV dinners aren’t something I grew up eating, outside of the rare kidcuisine, and most TV dinners follow a very standard non-vegetarian format. While I debated replicating the format (1 meat, 2 veggies, 1 dessert), I also thought about some of the vegetarian friendly frozen dinners I enjoyed in high school. When I first started out on the vegetarian path I had very limited cooking experience, and very little time to experiment since I had school, choir, and a part-time job. When I got home from work at 10PM I wanted something quick and easy, so microwave dinners were perfect. One of my favorites was called Santa Fe Rice & Beans, and while I haven’t had it in almost a decade I can still remember the “trick” to getting the rice to be warm without overcooking the beans. So I set out to recreate this late childhood dish, with delicious (and healthier!) results.
This might not be the standard TV dinner, but I can promise that I enjoyed this dinner many times while watching ER or Law & Order or whatever was on at 10 o’clock back in NBC’s glory days. I used homemade salsa verde (tomatillo salsa) based on the recipe on this page, however jar salsa, or a tomato based salsa, would work just as well.
The combination of rain and sun has resulted in a glorious garden, which is resulting in a large amount of delicious produce and with that meals filled with vegetables. Thanks to some coworkers I’ve had a steady supply of beets and swiss chard, and thanks to my garden I now have large amounts of tomatoes and carrots – a vegetarian paradise! When it came time to cook everything I relied on the Top Chef motto of “what grows together, goes together” and combined anything and everything to see what would happen. At the end of the week I had a little bit of everything but with the exception of the tomatoes I didn’t have enough of any of thing to make it a feature. So everything got tossed together with some quinoa in the ultimate tribute to summer vegetables.
I topped mine with some greek yogurt for dinner and had it “naked” for lunch the next day and both ways were amazing. This is one of those dishes that is guilt free, even if seconds are involved!
Quinoa Verde con Tostada
Not going to lie, the theme for r/52weeksofcooking had me more than a little nervous this week. I understand the importance of Presentation but I tend to focus more of the substance and taste of the dish and not so much of what it looks like – after all I’m not cooking for Gordon Ramsey or Anthony Bourdain or someone else who will comment on whether or not my dish resembles cat food. However I haven’t missed a challenge yet this year and wasn’t going to start now! So I thought about all the things I could do before deciding to go with color and vibrancy instead of knife skills or something insanely elaborate – after all I didn’t want to screw up the food in my quest for a pretty plate. I decided to make something with as many colors in it as possible without going too overboard while utilizing things I already had in my pantry. Watching an episode on Chopped gave me the inspiration, and confidence, to try making a tostada. I still had some tortillas left from the taco challenge and since tostadas are traditionally made with slightly stale tortillas the timing was perfect!
I spent a fair bit of time trying to figure out the perfect way to plate this dish, I wanted to make sure everything could be seen and keep the picture from being too saturated. I wound up plating the dish four different ways before picking this option. Needless to say doing this dish gave me a great appreciation for people who do this on a regular basis and will probably result in much better pictures as I will be paying a lot more attention in the future!!!
Garlicky Kale Salad with Grains
This past holiday season I got a large number of cookbooks, and I’m still going through them almost a month later and probably will be for weeks to come. I’ve already tested a few recipes from the Tagine cookbook, and decided to stop neglecting the others and see what goodies that had in store. One of them is Raising the Salad Bar, and while it’s not a vegetarian cookbook, its setup makes it very easy to bypass the meat and go straight to the good stuff. There are set recipes to follow but also tips for how to pick and choice various parts of each salad in order to come up with something totally new. So using the grain section as a guide I decided to throw something together based on what I had left from various meals during the week.
Even tho I’ve primarily been vegetarian for the past decade I’ve never been a big salad person, seeing them as side dishes or appetizers but rarely as the main course. This book is quickly changing my mind regarding what makes up a salad and while this salad certainly isn’t fancy but it’s quick, simple, and very filling.
Quinoa with Acorn Squash
Another new seasonal vegetable! Acorn squash was once of the seasonal squashes I had always seen at the market, but since it’s normally right next to the butternut squash I would skip over it. This time I went straight for it and grabbed a large white squash. Typically I got for the mid-range options but since I had two recipes to try I knew I would need a bigger than normal baby. Once I got home I split it down the middle, wrapping half and placing in the fridge for later in the week. The other half was seeded, reserving the seeds for a tasty late-night snack as well as a topping for the quinoa. I had debated how to cook the squash, before deciding to saute this half and bake the second half so that I could try out the two most popular methods. The “base recipe” is one I have used many, many, many times with other gourds that way I could get a good comparison between the acorn squash and those I have had in the past.
I wasn’t impressed with how well the squash didn’t stand up to the recipe, but the taste was still amazing which is what really matters. At the last moment I decided to top it with some Greek Yogurt, just to see what it would do and I really enjoyed the creaminess it added to the dish. As a bonus there is also a coupon on the linked website, so great excuse to give it a try if you haven’t! (btw this company has no idea who I am, just noticed the coupon offer when I went to find a link to the brand I used)
For the seeds after making sure they were dry and clean, I coated them in olive oil and tossed them in a mixture of paprika, cayenne powder, and salt and then sauted them in EVOO. I cooked them until they were a nice golden brown shade, stirring frequently to prevent popping and burning.
Quinoa with Tomato and Thyme
The end of summer is approaching, and with it the end of tomato season. Until then I’ll be doing as many tomato recipes as possible in order to get the most use possible out of my tomatoes. I can tell that the cherry tomato plants are going to stop producing well before the full size ones, and that’s okay. I’m also hopeful that I might get one or two more eggplants, but I know that as temperatures drop it will be less and less likely. I will definitely be doing more of the cherry tomatoes next year, but I think I’m going to try a different type of full size tomatoes. This year I went with an heirloom tomato, which I normally prefer, but I might try a hybrid next year since I think my issue is with the amount of sunlight my garden gets. The other option is just do cherry or grape size tomatoes, which isn’t a bad option except missing out on Fried Green Tomatoes and Stuff Tomatoes. Good thing I have a few months to figure out my game plan for next year.
This recipe took care of a fair are of a fair amount of cherry tomatoes, as well as the last of my onions from the family farm. I was inspired by the recipe of the same name from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian cookbook. I made changes to the ingredients, ratios, and everything else but like her recipe this features quinoa, tomatoes, and thyme.
While I used cherry tomatoes for this recipe, regular tomatoes could be used or even canned diced tomatoes during the off season. The main key is just making sure the quinoa has the right amount of liquid, so if you are using diced tomatoes reduce the vegetable stock by 2tbsp in order to keep the quinoa from getting mushy. When I had the leftovers for lunch the next day I added a tbsp of greek yogurt in order to add some moisture back to the dish, and it was amazing! I have a feeling I’ll be adding that everytime I make this dish in the future.