One of these days I will finally sort through my reflections from hiking Sahale Arm and seeing a glacier up close, or adventures in the Catskill Mountains of New York, but in the mean time, this:
The days are getting shorter, the weather’s getting crisper early in the morning. School supply ads reign supreme on live television between sports games. Before you know it, it’ll be Fall, and then Winter, and you might find yourself scrambling to put together a gift for that office party exchange, or family get-together where everyone draws a number from a hat. Well..
Do you have lots of leftover expired coconut oil?
No no, I mean LOTS.
Do you have a weakness for collecting empty containers your spouse/housemate/talking cat keeps suggesting you recycle, but perhaps they are the classy-looking “biscuit” tins you brought back from London last November, and they make you nostalgic for your travels to the the land of tea time, so you keep saying you’ll make candles with them?
I did some other research on soy wax, and paraffin wax and decided beeswax was my preferred option, as I try to avoid ingesting processed soy for myself and paraffin is a petroleum byproduct, so it strikes me as a little odd to be breathing either in. See citations at bottom of post for more. Mad props to my co-conspirator Jillian who balanced out my OCD-craziness with wingin’ it like a boss, plus ensuring I didn’t burn my house down in the process somehow.
I staged another upo squash battle, so stay tuned for another installment of the upo trials soon. But for now…
Here’s a first for the blog: a recipe trial based off a magnet! Specifically this one, which I bought from my home state long ago and always meant to use. With Autumn in full swing, the slight chill in the Pacific Northwest air puts me in mind of the Midwest Fall, with its brilliant, last-ditch burst of colors before the real cold sets in. With that, comes the impulse to make hot mulled cider (which I brought to spectate a Spartan Race the other weekend), and making tons of soup.
You will note there are some vague parts in this recipe, like, you can use 10 slices of bacon, OR and indeterminate amount of chicken. Continue Reading
This is a decent weekday recipe, based on the time spent, although you don’t get to just set it in the oven and forget it until it’s done. I cut the original amount of butter with olive oil so you can pretend it’s healthier. The initial recipe is based on one from the November 2006 issue of Bon Appétit available here. You could also just use olive oil, for a lactose-free version, but it’s not as tasty with so little fat content. Stay tuned for the next post! I’ve been working on cooking up some interesting posts for y’all.
The butternut squash planted late last spring is finally yielding ripened fruit. Due to the surprisingly longer processing time, i try to remember to only to roast butternut on a weekend, otherwise i end up eating around 10pm. With a solid sized squash like the one pictured, there’s always extra leftovers that can be frozen or portioned out for the week to put in salad, pasta or other meals.
Sunday Squash Roast
* 1 small (about 1.5 pounds) butternut squash, see below for cubing tip
* 1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
* 6 medium red potatoes, cubed
* 1 red onion, quartered
* 1 carrot, chopped in chunks
* 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
* 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
* 1/4 cup olive oil
* 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 475°F.
Shortcut: stab w/fork several times, microwave for 2-3 minutes, slice off outer shell, cube and de-seed. This also cuts the original recipe’s roasting time by about 10 minutes (to the 25-30 minute range).
In a large bowl, combine the squash, carrot, sweet potato, and red potatoes. Separate the red onion quarters into pieces and add them to the mixture.
Note: it is very important to mix this separately before combining with the vegetables, otherwise the oil and vinegar don’t distribute for an even caramelization: in a small bowl, stir together thyme, rosemary, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.
Toss with vegetables until they are coated. Spread evenly on a large roasting pan.
Roast for 25 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, stirring every 10 minutes or until vegetables are cooked through and browned.
A derivative of “roasted vegetables with fresh herbs” from a random King County employees recipe listing.
Today’s Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating: 1 of 5 stars.
I may have been making variations for four years, so it’s nothing new –but it has a pretty consistent and tasty result so I figured I’d post it here. Likelihood of Repeat: 100%
So convenient as a filler for new leftover combinations, you can put it on salad, or add it to soup for more oomph, or eat it atop rice with a protein.. Lesson Learned: Fighting to slice the butternut squash into cubes is always a little more tedious than you expect, even after you microwave it to tenderize a little. I made this on a Sunday, but didn’t even really get to eating it until the next day because the processing + baking time took so long it missed the other dinner items that were done earlier at a decent time. You also don’t get a crisp a caramelization factor if you microwave it before baking. This always makes much more than I expect out of one butternut squash, too. I had enough to eat all week, plus a few servings to freeze for later. Thus, the title of this post.
Leftover pumpkin seeds from carving 2 medium-large pumpkins
Arbitrary Amounts of…
Seasoning combinations (amounts to taste):
BBQ: brown sugar, ground cumin, chili powder
Sweet: Sugar, cinnamon
Clean the seeds.
Boil for 10 minutes in salt water.
Drain the seeds in a colander.
Spread seeds onto a baking sheet and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, plus seasoning of your choice (see above for what I did).
Roast seeds at 325F for 15-22 minutes, taste testing a few seeds at 15 minutes.
Optional step: accidentally touch the burning hot pan and spill 1/6 of the seeds.
This Week’s Trial Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating: 4 of 5
I tried roasting fresh pumpkin seeds once years ago, and it was dry and not tasty. This method with boiling first was delicious! Likelihood of Repeat: 75%
Totally worth doing in 365 days when I have fresh pumpkin seeds again! Lesson Learned: Boo! 11/1/14 edit: these are not as crispy and tasty second or third day, unless you toast them up a little again.
As a child growing up in the Midwest with home-cooked Chinese food for dinner, microwave dinners were some kind of marvelous space food I’d get to eat on special occasions (see: babysitter). Among those dinners, the best option often seemed to be the chicken pot pie, which could be easily popped in the toaster oven for a satisfying belly-sticking meal in a tin pan. Years later I picked up a recipe magazine based purely on the delectable-looking chicken pot pie on the front. I think it was a Reader’s Digest. Anyway, it seemed like such a novel and miraculous opportunity to learn to make pot pie, it has found an honored place in my recipe Dropbox files, usually only brought out to make something even better out of Thanksgiving turkey leftovers.
Fast forward to Labor Day weekend, and some old friends are in town and have made a special request for chicken pot pie. When good friends you haven’t seen in a years ask for pot pie, then you make pot pie.
Good thing I ended up with three great sous chefs to keep things rolling that Sunday..
Chicken Pot Pie
Based originally on ..a Reader’s Digest recipe
Serves 4 Prep time: 50 min Total time: ~.5 hrs prep + 1.5 hr + chilling (approx. 35 min chilling 2x)
4 Tbs unsalted butter
1 medium onion, cut into medium dice
2-3 large carrots, cut into medium dice
1/2 c all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface (whole wheat flour works fine too)
coarse salt & pepper
4 c low-sodium chicken broth (or veggie stock)
3 c cooked chicken, cut into 1-inch pieces (1 lb total)
1 c frozen peas
1.5 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves (or .75 tsp dried thyme)
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 large egg yolk
Optional: garlic powder, random italian seasonings
1. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium. Add onion and carrot and cook until onion softens, about 6 minutes. Add flour and 1/2 tsp salt; cook, stirring frequently, until mixture is pale golden, has a slightly nutty aroma, and is the texture of cooked oatmeal, about 5 minutes.
2. Whisking constantly, add broth. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens, about 8 minutes. Reduce to a simmer and cook 10 minutes. Stir in chicken, peas and thyme; season with salt and pepper (optional: garlic powder and italian seasoning). Divide mixture among four 12-ounce baking dishes; refrigerate until room temperature, about 20 minutes. Try to fill the dishes as full as possible to help support the dough on time so it gets a chance to rise. In the case of this last time I made pot pie, the baking dishes with filling were put in a cooler with ice and transported for the ~30 minutes to a friend’s house before continuing to the next step.
2.5 Optional step: get to your friend’s house and realize you forgot the puff pastry, half the group heads to the store to buy some more. :p
3. Preheat oven to 375 F. On a lightly floured work surface, roll pastry to an 1/8 inch thickness. Cut into 4 equal squares, 1 inch larger than dishes; with the tip of a sharp knife, cut vents into pastry. In a small bowl, lightly beat egg yolk with 1 tsp water; top potpies with pastry and brush with egg wash.
4. Refrigerate 15 minutes.
5. Bake until pastry is deep golden and juices are bubbling, about 35-45 minutes. It can be useful to put a wide dish underneath to catch any accidental overflow.
6. When serving, be sure to warn people the pot pie is very hot.
7. Take a food coma nap.
Today’s Trial Recipe Rating: Novelty Rating: 1.5 of 5 stars.
As mentioned, I usually only make this about once a year after Thanksgiving, so on that note, it’s a bit novel. Likelihood of Repeat: 100%
It’s quite a bit of work, which is partly why I use pre-made puff pastry instead of dough from scratch. However, all that care and attention only makes it more worth eating.
Lesson Learned: You will never have leftovers from this, unless you keep the filling separate from the dough and don’t bake it. Also, you can make whatever design you want when cutting slits in the top of the dough. Exercising the patience for full refrigeration time is pretty key to making sure the crust doesn’t get soggy and collapse, and having moderately shallow baking dishes gives you a good crust-to-filling ratio. Don’t be afraid to use more vegetables.
A variant to try later: putting crust underneath the filling too, per my friend S____________’s requests. Comment here if you’ve done this!
In the last few years, through a dramatic health-related life event, I have (a)become a little more acutely grateful of being alive at all, and (b)felt a more urgent need to put in the time investments now to ensure a longer and healthier life. So in that vein, after the unhappy consequences of Reduced Sugar Challenge October, November is Sustained Exercise Month, with a weekly minimum goal of 150 minutes of exercise activity (also smaller portion month, but that’s a different post). It feels like an uphill battle with the increasingly dreary overcast weather outside and waning hours of daylight, but also a necessary one to get a jump on holiday eat-o-ramas (not to mention snowboarding season).
I prefer tricking myself into exercise, like getting outside running before you are awake, so you have no choice but to continue running, or accidentally agreeing to long hikes with friends when you imagined a 2-mile flat path. Happily, this weekend a good friend of mine agreed to try out Cranksgiving Seattle 2013, a charity bike scavenger hunt that donates to the Rainier Valley Food Bank. So I got to fulfill my remaining 30+ minutes (bike commuted to and from work once, and yes, I counted the 40 minutes of raking too) while getting some sun, and helping some other folks who need it more get fed.
It was a pretty nice day for a ride, a little chilly but sunny. I like to tell myself that trying new routes (a.k.a. getting really lost) helps exercise your brain cells to ward off Alzheimer’s later too. The gathering place was Gasworks Park, and it was darn scenic:
There are some days when I miss spaghetti, as my household doesn’t eat much pasta at home any more (well, even if I made it, the other half would likely abstain). If it happens to be a chilly Fall day when I’m plotting a meal to make, my mind goes to spaghetti squash. I was only introduced to this intriguing squash variety a couple years ago, when to help while away a lengthy chemo session, a steadfast childhood friend stopped by with some, miraculously procuring something that appeared both vegetable and pasta-like! How novel! I could feel my brain stretching as I ate it…
That brings us to today’s recipe, an amalgam of internet advice and my squash baking experiences. Note: I’ve starred a couple options that I consider more fattening (and therefore tasty).
(1) Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Zucchini Sausage Saute: looks like spaghetti, still tastes like healthy..
1/2 spaghetti squash (you can bake the whole thing, but the rest of this only needs half the squash)
1/2 sweet onion
2 cloves garlic
1.5 zucchini squash, sliced and halved
chicken apple sausage, sliced and halved (or polska kielbasa sausage*)
butter* or olive oil (for squash baking)
saffola oil (for frying)
salt & pepper (to taste)
thyme (to taste)
parmesan, grated or thinly sliced (your choice)
cheat ingredient: bottled pasta sauce
makes: 4 servings
Preheat oven to 350
Cut spaghetti squash in halve lengthwise, de-seed (shortcut option: poke squash with a fork and microwave for a few minutes to presoften before you fight the rind to cut it, this may result in a mushier end product, though)
Oil or butter (I was feeling decadent so I used butter this time) the flat surface of the squash and lay, cut sides down, on a baking sheet.
Bake spaghetti squash in oven about 30 minutes (check after 20 if you microwaved before cutting), until barely tender when poked with a fork.
While you wait, you can work on sauteing the other stuff per directions below, or go do a little yoga (I did the latter this time, since then the saute wouldn’t cool too much while I was scraping out the squash).
Remove squash from oven, let cool to a temperature to handle, then scrape the squash flesh out with a fork. As you scrape, it will come apart into spaghetti-like shapes. For most squash sizes I’ve seen, if you scrape out only half the squash, that will be enough for this recipe to serve 4, so the other half can be scraped out and put aside for a recipe another day, or frozen.
The Other Stuff:
In a large frying pan on medium, saute onions 2 minutes in saffola oil.
Add garlic, stir a bit.
Add zucchini and sausage, saute 7 minutes or until at desired tender-crispness of zucchini and browning of sausage.
Add the squash to the pan, fold ingredients together, sprinkle with thyme, salt, and pepper to taste.
Pour the pasta sauce and mix until warmed through.
Serve with parmesan on top. You can also try it with goat cheese.
This week’s trial recipe #1 rating:
Novelty Rating: 2 of 5 stars
I’ve made this before. I get so excited when it’s plated like spaghetti, but the texture and flavor really aren’t anywhere close, it’s pretty crunchy. In retrospect I may have undercooked it, for fear of overcooking it into mush. Booooo. Likelihood of Repeat: 35%
I’ve made this a few times, and my spouse’s reaction when he hears I’m making it is always, “that seems like a lot of effort for small gain.” So I think the spaghetti squash + pasta sauce combination is on its way out. Since I’m not on the Paleo or Atkins diets, why make spaghetti squash when you miss spaghetti?
Also, why did I make squash (spaghetti) with squash (zucchini)? C-razzy.
I think I need to find another spaghetti squash recipe that just treats it like spaghetti, and stick with Nom Nom Paleo’s Zucchini Spaghetti on those days when I can’t bring myself to cook actual pasta, but have time to julienne zucchinis. You got any?
In general, I am big proponent of eating things for the sake of their own taste, something I like to mention to my vegetarian friends when I agree on the tastiness of tofu, fried gluten, or quorn. Unfortunately, this seems to be an instance where I forgot about that in my enthusiasm for (a)my love of pasta and (b)the novelty of a weird squash that yields fun.
1/2 a spaghetti squash
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese (more lactose-intolerant friendly)
1/4 cup almonds, roughly chopped and toasted (was out of pecans)
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 green onions (white & green parts), thinly sliced
Roast spaghetti squash per steps 1-4, and 6 in other recipe above.
In a small bowl, whisk together, olive oil, vinegar and salt.
Pour vinaigrette into the spaghetti squash and toss. Add cheese, pecans, cherries, and most of green onions, stir well, and serve cold.
This week’s trial recipe #2 rating:
Novelty Rating: 4 of 5 stars
May have baked one too many spaghetti squash this season for it to feel novel.. Likelihood of Repeat: 90%
I still have some left over in the freezer and I plan to defrost and use it as a salad later. The slight tartness of the balsamic vinegar makes me less expectant that it should be heavy and filling, and therefore I found it more satisfying to eat. My friend I shared it with also gave positive reviews.
(October Week 5 Trial)
I banked this Spanish Bread & Garlic Soup recipe in my Evernote recipe folder last April waiting for the right day, which apparently meant in the Fall, when I’m in the mood for soup. Having to watch the video for the actual instructions behind ingredients -including turning the heat up and down a bunch- may have had something to do with it.
I started with the prescribed ingredients, including some home made chicken stock from a Sunday a few weeks ago:
Baked the bread at 350 for 15 minutes and forgot to include olive oil, sliced tons of garlic thin by hand (my amateur area of expertise!), sauteed it, then sauteed the ham..
Added the bread to the mix, and paprika..
Brought it to a boil, salted, peppered and cayenned it to taste, and popped in a couple eggs* in to poach on low covered,
Voila! Bread and garlic soup!
This week’s trial recipe ratings: novelty: 4 of 5 stars likelihood of repeat: 75%
My test audience of one mentioned it was a little carby, and I have to agree. I was not expecting quite so much bread-to-garlic substance ratio. I think I’ll probably make this on a lazy weekend for half the portion size, and possibly when I’m the only one home. It’s definitely a good recipe for a low budget if you have some stale bread lying around, paprika, broth and garlic.
*Let’s just pretend the first egg was not lost to the bready, soupy abyss and got overcooked, and that this perfect, just-runny egg in the picture was the only final product.
Addendum: Four days later and I finally finished the leftovers, what was I thinking on those giant portions! A tasty poached egg with a just-runny yolk definitely makes the flavor right in this soup, which I found hard to replicate via microwave egg poaching at work (yolk gets cooked too fast too evenly). I may try this poached egg addition to some other soups too.