flavor of fall

winter squash

Working at a pumpkin market down the street this fall, I’ve had a chance to taste my share of different pumpkin and squash varieties (the farmer grows over 30). They range in color – from steel blue to burning hot orange – size, shape, ugliness, skin type – pimply and lumpy to smooth as plastic – and of course the taste and texture of their nutritious flesh. I did a taste test of a few that I had never tried, but my preference still goes back to my all-along favorite: the kabocha type.

Kabocha or Japanese pumpkins have a dense, dry yet silky texture and sweet but mild taste, resembling to me a pumpkin and sweet potato combined. They make the creamiest hearty soups when pureed and melt in your mouth when roasted or baked in chunks. My favorite way to enjoy it remains the simplest: chunks of baked squash drizzled in good olive oil, sea salt and black pepper. As simple as possible to let the flavor and texture of the squash shine.

pumpkin varieties

When talking pumpkin recipes with David (the farmer), he said he likes to stuff acorn squash with mac n’ cheese and bake it. Uh, why hadn’t I ever thought of that? Homemade macaroni + cheese is something I allllways look forward to in the fall (but secretly wish included more vegetables :), and I can never get enough of winter squash. So combine the two? Done.

mac n cheese ready for the oven Continue reading

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brussels sprout – grape – canadian bacon roast with maple walnuts

roasted brussels sprouts, red grapes, canadian bacon + maple walnuts

This is one of those times when what you happen to have in the fridge goes into the oven and what comes out is unexpectedly awesome. [Along with being unexpected, I was unprepared and had to make do with my iPhone as a camera and dim, yellow kitchen lighting..]

All I wanted to do for dinner was roast some brussels sprouts, just plain and all by themselves, because I hadn’t had them yet this fall and I love them. But when I go to search on the internet “how to roast the perfect brussels sprouts,” all these exciting things come up. Maple brussels sprouts with bacon, brussels sprouts with apples and walnuts… now my creative juices started to flow a bit. I didn’t have an apple, but I had big red grapes. No bacon, but leaner Canadian bacon which would be delicious all roasted and crispy. Rosemary, because it’s my favorite herb in the fall and the bush outside our house is getting rather large. And maple walnuts, because I had just bought a large bag of walnuts for no particular reason, and candied nuts are such a fall thing [in my head at least].

roasted brussels sprouts, grapes, canadian bacon + maple walnuts

I had a good feeling when I mixed it all up and put the pan in the oven. And 30 minutes later, the realization came that my brussels-sprouts-roasting had gone to ten new levels. I stacked my fork with each element to get a monster bite which included just about every texture, every flavor – sweet, salty, meaty, herby, nutty, charred – and tasted like cozy sweet fall on a fork. I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

At that point I realized this dish deserved a place on the blog, and then I spent too many minutes fooling with my iphone camera and ugly yellow dim lighting to attempt to do it justice in a photo. But just trust me, this dish tastes way better than it looks on here! Continue reading

light & quick hazelnut currant scones

hazelnut currant scones

fiery fall foliage

Bring me to a pastry shop, and scones are just about the only thing that’ll get my attention. I’m not one to fall for those buttery, flaky filled croissants or tarts or really anything with a pie-like crust. But scones are in their own wonderful category of pastry. They’re like big fluffy cookie-biscuits, and I love everything about that.

Even with my love for scones, I never seem to justify buying one, knowing how butter and cream and sugar laden they are. Sounds great for a treat, but not quite the nutritious breakfast I’m going for.

I was inspired to experiment myself by way of a scone recipe on a bag of hazelnut flour. First of all, anything made with hazelnut flour is going to be divine, right? Not to mention there will also be currants, and together this goodness will be baked into scones? Gotta try it. Continue reading

cozy wintertime stew

hearty chicken, butternut + quinoa stew

It’s important at this time of year, to maintain a balance between Christmas cookies and healthy, wholesome meals. Because as long as we take full advantage of winter’s nutritious harvest at meal times, no one need turn down a scrumptious holiday cookie (or two, or three..)

We’ve had our fill of both at my house—perhaps leaning towards the indulgent side—but leafy greens and bright orange squash are still part of our everyday diet. I had this recipe for chicken stew with butternut and quinoa marked for a long time, and like most recipes I finally get around to making I think, why did I wait so long?!

hearty chicken, butternut squash + quinoa stew

This is definitely a keeper in my recipe book, as it’s everything I love in a wintertime meal. Hearty, healthy, balanced, wholesome, cozy, savory, sweet, filling, and lick-the-bowl GOOD!

Chicken Stew with Butternut Squash + Quinoa, adapted from Cookin’ Canuck

  • 1 1/2 lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeded + chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 t kosher salt
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 t dried oregano
  • 1 can (14 oz) petite diced tomatoes
  • 2/3 cup uncooked quinoa
  • couple handfuls kale, roughly chopped
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley Continue reading

mom’s apple cake, healthified

This is my mom’s old fashioned apple cake. Sans the 2 ¼ cups of sugar. She made it earlier this season and we gobbled it up, oh yes… but no one can feel good about ingesting that much refined sugar. So I decided to do something about it.

In my version, winter squash puree replaces the shortening to keep it moist, sugar is reduced to just 1/3 cup, accompanied by erythritol—a natural (calorie-free) sweetener—and vanilla protein powder, whole wheat flour replaces the white, and an egg yolk is omitted to reduce cholesterol. *check my notes at the bottom for simple vegan substitutions.

It’s basically a balanced meal in itself. Squash = fiber and vitamins; Apples = more fiber and vitamins; Whole wheat flour = whole grains, more fiber; Eggs + milk + protein powder + nuts = PROTEIN! And that’s my excuse for eating a big ol’ slice for dinner ;)  Try it, I dare you.

^Check out that original recipe….. got enough sugar?!

Autumn Apple Cake

  • ½ cup pumpkin or winter squash puree
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup erythritol*
  • 1 t nectresse*
  • ¼ t salt
  • 1 egg + 3T egg whites, or 7 T egg whites
  • 1 cup buttermilk (make your own by adding 1T vinegar to a cup measure, and fill the rest with milk)
  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup vanilla protein powder – mine is sweetened with stevia
  • 2 t baking soda
  • 2 t cinnamon
  • 1 t ground ginger
  • 4 cups apples, peeled & chopped fine Continue reading

southwestern polenta bowl

This time last year (strangely, this exact day), I discovered and posted about my newfound love for polenta. The obsession lasted a good while, as it was an easy ‘cooking-for-one’ meal while I was in school and always comforting during the colder months. Then springtime cravings for salads and fresh veggies took over my attention, and my bag of corn grits was left to its lonesome in the back of the pantry.

Until now! The moment I whisked up these grits today and heaped them with some southwestern-inspired fridge finds, it all came back to me. Deliciousness. A warm, nourishing, well-balanced, fuel-filled meal that’s anything but bland. A comfort food, but one without the post-indulgence guilt.

In this one-bowl meal, polenta [or corn grits] serve as the base as lettuce does for your springtime salad, and you get to be the creative genius to toss whatever your tummy desires on top.  Possibilities are endless, of course, but this one deserved to be documented and made again and again in exactly the same way…..

:]

southwestern-inspired polenta bowl

  • 1/2 cup yellow corn grits
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 T olive oil
  • onion
  • ground veggie sausage
  • black beans
  • roasted cubed pumpkin
  • chopped kale
  • fresh cilantro
  • fresh spicy salsa / pico de gallo

Bring vegetable broth and salt to a boil in a pot. Add oil. Lower heat to simmer. Add the polenta in a slow steady stream, stirring constantly with a whisk. Whisk for about 5 minutes, until polenta is thickened. Keeping heat low, cover and let cook for 20 more minutes or so, stirring occasionally.

While polenta is cooking, in a pan sauté some onions with crumbled/ground veggie sausage and sprinkle with a little s+p. I then added in some black beans, leftover roasted cubed pumpkin and chopped kale. Once the sausage is cooked through, you may want to pour in some vegetable broth to help wilt the kale and keep everything from sticking.

When polenta is thick and creamy, spoon into a bowl and pile on your sautéed medley. Top with fresh cilantro and spicy salsa and devour!

Enjoy! -m

autumn: spiced & baked

Haaaaaappy Halloween! Hope everyone is safe and recovering from crazy superstorm Sandy ♥

While I’m always one to dread the end of the warm months for the long, cold ones to come, I’m realizing how wonderful seasons are for the soul. The change of seasons brings so much to look forward to: we do different activities, eat different foods, change up our wardrobe, and watch as nature transforms around us. I did always miss the color-intense fall we have in Maryland while I was down south at school. So this year I’m taking advantage of the season’s beauty, from camping and taking many a hike on the mountain, visiting the local vineyard (just voted “Best Of D.C.”!!), carving pumpkins, and eating so much squash I should have turned into one by now.

We’ve had a gorgeous autumn here, with crisp mornings and mild days, deep blue skies, plentiful sunshine and sunset-hued leaves. And so naturally what else would I do but combine all this autumn beauty into something edible. Something simple: a squash picked from the farm across the street, spiced, sweetened with pure maple syrup, and baked into perfection. A mix between pumpkin pie sans crust, custard, and flan ……. If you could taste autumn, this would be it.

Spiced Baked Pumpkin, adapted from Adventures in Cooking

  • 2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • 3 T Earth Balance (or butter), melted
  • 2 eggs (or flax eggs to keep it vegan)
  • 1 t maple extract (if you don’t have it, sub vanilla)
  • 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 1/4 t nutmeg
  • 1/4 t ground cloves
  • 1/4 t allspice
  • 1/4 t sea salt
  • 1/4 t baking soda Continue reading