Monday, November 19, 2012

Spaghetti Squash, Kale and Goat Cheese Gratin

Happy Thanksgiving week! How does it find you? Happy/healthy, I hope. If not, I hope it finds you hopeful and with love. This year, as we retreat to the mountains for the better part of the week, I wanted to share my Thanksgiving dinner contribution with you all. All of the "kids" are contributing one dish each, and I've chosen one of my top 5 of all time favorites. I wanted to share it, especially, in hopes that perhaps you can find inspiration to add it to your own Thanksgiving menu...this perfect combination of squash, kale and cheese makes for the ultimate healthy, hearty, fall-inspired comfort food.

Spaghetti Squash, Kale and Goat Cheese Gratin

Cut one medium to large spaghetti squash in half, lengthwise. Put on place, flesh side up, and microwave for 12-14 minutes, or until soft. Remove from microwave and let sit until cool.

In the meantime, chop 1/2 of a large white onion, mince 3 cloves of garlic and chop a small handful of fresh sage. Cook in a medium saucepan over medium heat, with a medium sized pat of butter, until all three are translucent and your kitchen smells awesome! (Roughly 15 minutes).

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

While onion and garlic are cooking away fantastically, scrape the flesh of your squash into a large bowl. It will come out of the squash with the consistency of spaghetti noodles. I would suggest scraping as much squash as possible out of the shell in order to minimize waste and maximize your squashage!

Put bowl of squash aside. 

With onions, garlic and sage still on medium heat, add roughly 2 cups of fresh, chopped kale. Continue to saute until kale is soft and bright green. When this step is complete (roughly 15-20 minutes), add kale and onion mixture to the bowl of squash.

Stir  1 and 1/2 a cup of greek yogurt (I highly recommend Cabots!), and 1/2 a cup of crumbled goat cheese. 

Transfer into a glass baking dish and sprinkle salt, pepper and another 1/2 a cup of crumbled goat cheese on top. Bake for 20 minutes with foil on top. Remove foil and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes, until cheese turns golden brown, your stomach is rumbling and your kitchen smells incredible! Enjoy!

One reason that I believe this dish is perfect for a holiday is that there are several steps involved (which require a bit of time and a bit of patience). I can't tell you enough how much I LOVE THIS DISH! And how I can practically guarantee that you will too. 

What do you find yourself most thankful for this year? Do you use Thanksgiving as a time to personally praise all that you're grateful for in life? I definitely do, as cliche as it may seem.

As this Thanksgiving approaches, I'm thankful for so many things. I'm fortunate for all that I have in my every day life, for the health of my family and the health of my marriage. 
I'm thankful for my almost 3-year old, Cloveleigh Mildred, who constantly surprises me with language that reflects immense levels of caring for others and the particular type of beauty that radiates from deep within. 
I'm thankful for my 8 month old baby, Banner O'Grady, whose utter and untarnished sense of joy reflects an aptitude for an easy-breezy kind of love and happiness (what more do we want for our children?).
I'm thankful for the moments when I am caught off guard, at unexpected times, when I feel an overwhelming type of unstaggering love for the man that I'm lucky enough to call my husband.
I'm thankful for my dear friends and my dear family who build the entire web of support, love, clarity, honesty and insight in my life. Dear friends and dear family, I wouldn't be anything of a person without you. 
I'm thankful for opportunities in my life which have taught me to be tolerant, honest, hopeful, thoughtful and loving as a parent. I'm mostly thankful for the chance that I have to teach two miniature human beings about universal acceptance, equality, desire, tolerance and the meaning of true love. 

Happy Thanksgiving to my readers! I hope you enjoy this week as much as any other and find time to be thankful for the things in your life that make you exactly who you are.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Garlic Basil Crockpot Stew

Hi, readers! I was talking to one of my friends recently, and she was in the middle of preparing a stew that instantly made my mouth water. A brothy garlic/basil/vegetable stew? Sold! Some of my very favorite things right there! I spent a day or two contemplating this recipe and tailored it a bit to fit the needs of the recipients of my family (my loyal guinea pigs!)...and the recipe below is the version that I decided upon.
How are all of you? How are those of you recovering from Sandy destruction? How are those of you preparing for the holiday season? And those of you pretending it isn't already here? Can you believe it? We are off to listen to our almost 3 year old sing with her class at their Thanksgiving feast this afternoon...bound to be the cutest thing. I will share photos if I'm able to take some cute ones!

Here is a soup recipe that you can't mess up. It is SOOoooo good!

Garlic Basil Crockpot Stew
In a saucepan over medium heat, saute half of a chopped white onion and three large cloves of minced garlic in 1 tablespoon of butter, until translucent. Your house will smell fab and you've hardly begun! (score!)...throw in crock pot. 
Chop the following vegetables and add to garlic/onion combo in crock pot: 1 zucchini, 5 small red potatoes, 2 cups of fresh green beans, 1 cup of chopped fennel, 4 medium sized carrots, 2 cups of diced tomatoes and 1 cup of fresh, chopped basil. 
Add a carton of vegetable broth and 1/2 a cup of water.
Add a can of pinto beans (or a similar bean...whatever is available to you!)
Add a dash of sea salt and a dash of fresh ground pepper, to taste. 

Cook on high heat for 3 hours and low heat for 1-2 hours. 

Serve with crusty, warm, buttered bread. We added cheddar cheese and greek yogurt to the top of ours before eating, which I thought was the perfect addition. You could also toy with parmesan or goat cheese! Yum! 

I cant hardly explain how simple this recipe is...perfect for a weeknight! I decided to make it on a cold, dark day and I believe that the finished product couldn't have been more fitting. Would it be ok for me to have a bowl for breakfast today?

So...Thanksgiving is right around the corner! Do you have fun plans? We're tucking ourselves away in our family mountain condo in North Carolina and emerging only for the occasional wine tasting, downtown stroll or cozy italian meal out. I am SO excited to be reunited with my favorite family members for a couple of days. My mom and I are just beginning to talk menu...I can't wait to share a bottle of wine and spend the day cooking with her. One of my very favorite, most heartwarming things to do. Would you share your plans with me? I would love to know what you have in store.

I'll revisit with you on my blog later this week as I experiment with butternut squash tacos! Have an awesome day!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Vegetable Stuffed Acorn Squash

Happy Sunday (early!) morning! How has your weekend been? I'm sitting on my couch with my hands wrapped around a warm mug of coffee (mixed with local honey) and am SO enjoying these spare moments of peace and quiet. When I wake up early in the morning, I give myself a choice: do I close my eyes for longer or rise and face the world? I almost always choose choice 2. These moments of alone-time as the sun rises, sipping coffee and gazing out of my windows as the world comes alive wins...for me. With these minutes of calmness before my household wakes up, I approach my day (and my family) with much more zen as they eventually wander out (or whimper from crib for retrieval) to join me. Ah, I love a good Sunday morning.
Last night we attended a wedding for one of my dear co-workers and spent time with old friends and made new friends as well. A night without children (thank you in-laws!), and conversations about my old workplace began to make thoughts about returning to work feel like more of a reality. Oh, the torn thoughts and feelings involved in this decision (so many, so conflicting!)...the positive aspect of my inner work related dialogue involves an opportunity for evening work, which would allow me to mosey in for a few hours each evening as my husband returns from his workday, requiring no huge home upheaval or the intense and difficult search for appropriate and trusting childcare. So very tempting! 
Also a big week for Americans...election day is on Tuesday! I can hardly believe it's here. Oh, the anxiety that I feel about this election knows no bounds. (breathe in, breathe out)....have you done your part and voted? Or do you have plans to vote? I'm so proud when I see men and women lined up outside of the early polling locations, waiting hours to vote, practicing their right to participate actively in our democracy even when it requires line dwelling and patience. VOTE, folks!

What I really wanted to do here today is share my newest recipe with you today, the mother of all stuffed squash recipes! After some experimentation on Friday night, I can officially say that I am proud of the final product! A perfect vegetarian delicacy (very filling!) for fall. Follow the instructions below for a meal that will most definitely leave you fully satisfied and content.

Vegetable Stuffed Acorn Squash
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pierce an acorn squash with a knife several times and heat in microwave for 3 minutes. Remove, and cut in half. Scoop the seeds and dispose or compost this part so that you're left with two halves, clean and ready for stuffing. 
Rub the flesh side with butter and place face down on a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes. Once this step is complete, turn squash over and cook for an additional 15 minutes on their backs.

In the meantime:
In a medium sized saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat. 
Add: 1/2 of a diced onion (any kind!), 1/2 of a diced bell pepper (I used yellow. Fun fact: red has the most vitamin C!), 1/2 of a diced granny smith apple and 2 carrots, chopped. Feel free to add any additional vegetables that you may have! 
Cook until vegetables are tender (10 minutes) and add 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of red wine (I used shiraz), 2 teaspoons of brown sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for an additional 5 minutes and then remove from heat.
Mix with 1 tablespoon of feta cheese. 
Remove squash from oven and let cool a bit for easy handling. Fill squash with vegetable and cheese mixture and top with a combination of mozzarella and feta cheeses.
Bake on 350 for 10-15 minutes, or until cheese begins to turn golden brown. 

Serve warm and ENJOY! 

Well, I've just had the pitter patter of pajama clad feet wander over to me and join me for the beginning of a lovely Sunday, so signing off here, please enjoy the rest of your weekend to the max! Fingers crossed for the most apt and able candidate to win the presidential race! Eeeee!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Rosemary Pumpkin Pasta

Hi there, blogger world! So many thoughts for peace to my readers who have been affected either directly or indirectly (aren't we all to some extent? Shouldn't all of mankind affected by disasters which affect some of us?) by Hurricane Sandy. So much love going out to all of you from my household. What a devastating week it has been, for so many people. 
New in our (very lucky, hurricane-free) household, our waking/sleeping lives have shifted slightly as our 7 month old baby Banner has thrown us into memories of newborn sleep patterns while he struggles with the discomfort of teething. In a nutshell: we are TIRED! All of us. This baby does not want to be put down, demanding more snuggles and patience than any other time in his little 7 month old life-poor little soul, deeply uncomfortable with the very foreign changes occurring within his little mouth, and very little understanding about the how and why. But one thing has remained constant through the chaos of the last week: we are hungry, we need comfort food, we're starting to get really cold (love!) and so...the blog continues! 
Recently, I made this delish recipe for Rosemary Pumpkin Pasta, which filled my belly with such warmth and satisfaction that if it weren't for the lost art/need of culinary diversity, this would be in my belly every single day. Good news from my kitchen=its full of a variety of beautiful, different kinds of squash after today's trip to the market! Feelings of Christmas morning excitement for this girl!

In the meantime, we will continue to send positive and healing thoughts to victims of this terrible hurricane and those affected on every level of devastation. 

Rosemary Pumpkin Pasta
Gather 2 tablespoons of fresh rosemary. While you're removing it from the stem and breaking it into tiny pieces, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil on your stovetop (on medium heat), in a saucepan. 
After the oil becomes hot, toss rosemary into the pan, cooking for a couple of minutes, until it becomes crispy (not burned!) and a deep, beautiful green color. Your rosemary should remain green and should not turn brown or black. 
Once you've achieved the perfect dark green color and minimal but brittle "crunch", remove and put on a plate, blotting oil from rosemary.
(Try it. Just a little taste....AWESOME!)

Cook one box of pasta, al dente: penne or linguine. I've tried both and either work amazingly. 

In the meantime, combine the following ingredients in your oil (which should still be warm, but turned down to a medium-low heat for the next step):
1 cup of water
1/2 a cup of half and half
2 tablespoons of white-wine vinegar
1/2 a cup of parmesan cheese
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 can of pumpkin puree, or roughly 15 ounces of flesh from one sugar pumpkin (roasted, scraped and pureed-leftover can be saved for future pumpkin recipes, and refrigerated for a couple of weeks)
Salt and Pepper to taste
A dash of red pepper flakes

The longer this cooks (low, on your stovetop), the more pronounced each flavor will become independently and as a greater combination of flavors. If you're in a hurry, toss with pasta and serve immediately. If you have time and are approaching this recipe more leisurely, simmer for up to 2 hours for an extra-amped up taste!
Crunchy rosemary distributed generously among plates, on top of pasta, is the most perfect finish. Also sprinkle a bit of red pepper flakes to garnish atop the rosemary. 

As always, I served this with a beautiful spinach salad, buttery, crunchy bread and white wine. 

I have passed this recipe on several times since it's first creation and it has a large audience appeal. This is the perfect make ahead meal as well, and can be delivered to a family with a new baby, or perhaps a new neighbor, or coworker. If you choose to do so, pack the sauce and rosemary in a tupperware along with a box of dry pasta. The sauce can be easily reheated and the pasta can be easily prepared when the timing is perfect for the meal recipient! I recently brought this meal to a friend who delivered her baby and the ease of the meal was key in the meal-giving. (If you're delivering to a family with a new baby, pack a bottle of wine as me! Encourage celebrations to begin!)

I hope that this post finds my readers well and feeling helpful towards our fellow men during this difficult time. Today, my two year old daughter, Cloveleigh, and I gathered several bags of toys to donate to children who have lost theirs in the storm. Consider at least a small gesture, if it's all you can do, because many small gestures equal something beautiful and much, much greater.