Posts tagged ‘autumn’

November 3, 2014

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

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November 21, 2013

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!

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November 14, 2013

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.

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December 13, 2012

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
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November 11, 2012

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
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November 5, 2012

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

October 31, 2012

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
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January 2, 2012

coconut curry pepita granola

This stuff is the ultimate sweet-salty-spicy-crunchy combination, the kind of snack that leaves you crazy addicted after one bite. So, sorry in advance if you eat the whole batch in one day… I warned you!

The ingredients complement each other perfectly: spicy curry and cinnamon, sweet maple syrup, a good dose of sea salt and toasty coconut, all caramelized around the crunchy roasted pepitas and rice puffs.

Also it’s gluten free, vegan, refined sugar free and so delicious that you won’t even notice.

I tried three different batches, playing with the ingredients each time until I tasted that perfect balance of sweet, salty and spicy. The original recipe was more of a pepita brittle rather than granola, with lots of the gooey stuff and fewer seeds. I’m sure that is delicious but I wanted a more snack-acceptable treat, so I added some oats and rice puffs to make it granola-y.

This is perfect for jarring up and gift-giving, as I did for Christmas, or just leaving in a bowl on the counter for whenever you need a zesty bite to wake your taste buds. Just beware, one bite will turn in to seven… or 25.

coconut curry pepita granola, adapted from here

  • 1 1/2 cups raw unsalted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 1 1/2 cups puffed brown rice cereal
  • 1/2 cup oats (use gluten-free oats if desired)
  • 1/2 cup real maple syrup
  • 3 T coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 T curry powder
  • 1/2 t Saigon cinnamon
  • 1/2 T sea salt
  • 1 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or not—it’s up to you)

*for a lower sugar version you can replace 1/4 cup of the maple syrup with unsweetened applesauce (I haven’t tried this but it should be fine), and use unsweetened coconut.

Heat oven to 350º F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Measure pepitas, rice puffs and oats into a large bowl and set aside. Place curry powder in a small saucepan and heat over low flame until it is lightly toasted and fragrant. Then add maple syrup, coconut oil, salt and cinnamon, whisk to combine and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from heat.

Pour maple mixture over pepitas and rice puffs, stirring to mix. Spread coated granola evenly over the surface of the parchment-lined cookie sheets in a thin layer. Place in oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Remove from oven and stir shredded coconut into mixture, then bake for another 10-15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes until seeds are toasty and granola is golden. Keep a close eye on it this time as the seeds and coconut can burn quickly. Then remove from oven.

Place baking sheet on a wire cooling rack and let cool completely. The seed mixture will harden as it cools. Some areas will be very toasty and crisp, while other areas will be gooey and caramel-like :] When cooled, break granola into chunks. Serve when warm and delicious or store in an air-tight container and eat within 2 weeks (..as if it will take that long)!

^ this was my first batch, which was close to the original recipe with mostly pepitas and I added a few almonds.

mid-baking, adding the coconut.

Enjoy!

-mich

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December 28, 2011

Seeded Butternut Squash Braid

This bread was so good we made it twice within 3 days and gobbled up every last crumb.

My sister Tara is a bread baker wannabe and her first attempt over our Thanksgiving break was good but not what she wanted. The whole wheat dough was wet and didn’t exactly rise. So when our other sister brought home this recipe for a butternut squash braid [Tara’s pretty obsessed with squash :], she decided to go for round II.

It smelled delicious, looked incredible, definitely doubled—maybe tripled—in size, and tasted… divine. Perfection, with the exception of being slightly undercooked and doughy, which didn’t bother our family of dough-lovers. We ripped off wads of it like challah and let it melt in our mouths, sinking into a ball of dough in the pit of our stomachs that stayed there all night. Quite filling, but it was impossible to have just one piece!

So after the successful test run my sisters decided to make it again for Christmas dinner. We let it bake all the way through this time, the crust turning a shiny golden brown. The inside texture was airy and soft—the way it’s meant to be—but we actually preferred the dense, doughy loaf :]

Moral of the story: we’re not master bread bakers, so this loaf should be fairly simple and  fool-proof for beginners if you follow the directions. The butternut gives it a richness and makes it soft and moist, and the texture reminds me of challah. This is definitely a keeper in the bread recipe files!

Seeded Butternut Squash Braid, from taste of home

Prep time: 45 min + rising, Bake: 20 min. Yields 18 servings.

  • 2-3/4 cups uncooked cubed peeled butternut squash
  • 1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup warm milk (110° to 115°)
  • 2 tablespoons warm water (110° to 115°)
  • 1/2 cup pepitas or sunflower kernels (we didn’t use)
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened (we used Earth Balance)
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3-1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour

Topping:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/4 cup pepitas or sunflower kernels

Place squash in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and cook for 15-20 minutes or until tender. Drain and mash squash (you will need 2 cups); cool to 110°-115°.

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm milk and water. In a largebowl, combine the pepitas, butter, egg, brown sugar, salt, cooked squash, yeast mixture and 2 cups flour; beat on medium speed for 3 minutes. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough (dough will be sticky).

Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divide into thirds. Shape each into a 26-in. rope; braid ropes. Transfer to a greased baking sheet; form into a circle, pinching ends together to seal. Cover with a clean kitchen towel; let rise in a warm place
until doubled, about 45 minutes.

For topping, beat egg and water; brush over braid. Sprinkle with pepitas. Bake at 350° for 18-23 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan to wire rack. Yield: 1 loaf (18 slices). Per slice: 192 calories, 7 g fat, 31 mg cholesterol, 150 mg sodium, 25 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 7 g protein.

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December 14, 2011

chili on a chilly night

Simple solution to a chilly-November-home-alone kind of night: go to Trader Joe’s, pick up some veggies and beans, make chili, cuddle up on the couch in your pj’s and a blanket and let the Christmas movie marathoning begin! This was me on the night I returned to my apartment after Thanksgiving break. I had this chili on my list of recipes to make for a while and mmmm… why did I wait this long to try it?! So simple, hearty, flavorful, just the right amount of heat (as in pretty spicy if you don’t like spice), and did I mention delicious?!

Don’t make the mistake I did and put this on your list of recipes to try, only to actually cook it a year later. Do it now!

turkey & kale chili, from here

  • olive oil
  • 1 pound 93% lean ground turkey
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 T brown sugar
  • 1 T chili powder
  • 1 1/2 T cumin
  • 2 t dried oregano
  • 2 t salt
  • 1 t pepper
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 2 14.5-ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 15-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels (I like super sweet white corn)
  • 1 1/4 cups chicken or turkey broth
  • 1 small bunch lacinato kale, tough stems removed and roughly chopped
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