Archive for the 'squash' Category

19
Oct
11

brunch, zumba, roasted root veggies

This carnivorous journey has proven quite interesting. I went from spending three years in meaty fear to fully embracing everything from the gamey lamb to the more mainstream meat trifecta of chicken, turkey, and beef. I then recalled my commitment to health, and so I downsized the red meat in my life and welcomed more lean proteins. Then, out of nowhere, I went all lady-balls-to-the-wall and had my very first duck bun! I’m almost ready to conquer ham, and I’m thinking a croque monsieur is the way to do it.

I’ve accomplished what I intended to do, which is to fully convert to a meat eater, enzymes to break down animal protein and all. I also cared to prove myself a worthy meat adversary, so that socially I prove more desirable as people who knew me as a veggie can get off on my unabashed consumption. And get off they do. You’re welcome, friends.

As a result, I no longer feel as if I have something to prove, meat-wise. And, so, I’ve decided that I prefer cooking mostly vegetarian at home, but I will continue to order meat when I’m out. Well hi there, happy medium. I knew I’d find you somewhere.

I’ve been making an awesome veggie-filled brunch on the weekends, and it’s always some variation of whatever veggies I have on hand and a poached egg. Last week, I made a particularly lovely one:

Ingredients:

veggies and a poached egg

1 egg
splash of white distilled vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 eggplant, chopped
2 c broccoli florets, chopped
2 c baby spinach
salt and pepper, to taste
Sriracha, to taste

You start by filling a small saucepan with water, and bring it to a simmer. Add a splash of vinegar, and drop the egg in the water. Cook for 3 minutes, and remove with a slotted spoon to dry on paper towels.

Meanwhile, cook garlic in a nonstick skillet with cooking spray for a couple of minutes. Add broccoli, and cook for about 5 minutes until slightly tender. Add eggplant and more cooking spray, and cook until they begin to brown along with the broccoli. Add spinach, and cook until wilted, another 5 minutes or so. Serve under the egg, and top with Sriracha. It’s been my go-to weekend brunch for nearly a year, and I’ve yet to tire of it.

On the sweaty front, I just discovered zumba. I know I’m a little late to the party (ha! pun intended), but I sure am glad I showed up fashionably late. I find myself enjoying monotonous cardio less and less (running, I’m referring to you), and so it was refreshing to go to a Latin-infused dance class for a change. It’s well documented that I’ve tried nearly every type of exercise know to man, but I will always return to dance. And zumba is, like, really challenging! It’s super fast and complex, and the instructor will not slow down regardless of the class’s comprehension. I’m a lifelong dancer and show-off, so I was made for that.

I came home all Starvles the Clown after my class last night, and I was in the mood for lots of veggies. I decided to make ratatouille, and I found this great recipe courtesy of Weight Watchers.

ratatouille atop tofu shirataki noodles

Ingredients:
¾ lb eggplant, chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
2 medium zucchini, chopped
1 medium red pepper, chopped
1 c portabella mushrooms, sliced (my addition)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ c water
14 ½ oz canned diced tomatoes2 tbsp basil
¼ tsp black pepper
4 tsp Parmesan (my addition)

You start by putting the eggplant in a colander in the sink, and covering it in3/4 tsp salt. Let stand 20 minutes, and then rinse under cold water and pat dry with paper towels.

Heat oil in a large pan over medium-high heat, and add the eggplant, zucchini, bell pepper, onion, mushrooms and garlic. Cook one minute, and stir. Add water, reduce heat, and simmer, covered for 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, basil, pepper, and remaining ¼ tsp salt. Simmer, uncovered, for about 25 minutes.

I sometimes watch Hungry Girl, and she constantly raves about Tofu Shirataki noodles. They are cheap, a good pasta substitute, and just 40 calories a bag, so I had to give them a try.

You start by draining and rinsing the noodles, and then microwave them for one minute. Pat them dry, because they are far too moist to consume at first. I added salt and pepper to the then dry noodles, and served them underneath the ratatouille. It was just about the healthiest thing I ever did make, and it was really tasty. Totes making it again.

Last week, I made this incredible Roasted Root Jumble that I stole from the adorbs Aarti Sequeira:

Aarti Party

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 tablespoons ground coriander (I used cinnamon)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large fennel bulb, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
1 large red onion, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
1 large lemon, cut into 1/2-inch slices
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch rounds1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
3/4 lb butternut squash, chopped (my addition)
cooked polenta, sliced (my addition)

The original recipe didn’t call for butternut squash, but I added it in for funsies. You start by pre-heating the oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together the oil, cumin and cinnamon in a bowl, and then add ½ tsp of salt and a fair amount of black pepper. Lay the vegetables on a baking sheet covered in aluminum foil and cover them in the oil. Toss to coat. Bake for 30 minutes, then add feta and bake for 15 minutes more.

Meanwhile, I cut the polenta into slices and pan fried in a skillet over medium-high heat. I cooked until they blackened a bit, and then served them underneath the jumble. I don’t want to overstate this, but it was the most delicious thing I’ve ever consumed, save for a blackened salmon taco I had in Austin once. The roasted lemon is incredible, and I was able to quash my desire to add hot sauce by squeezing lots of flavor out of the lemons. That, in itself, is a massive accomplishment since I am a Sriracha obsessive. See below:

roasted root jumble with feta

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28
Feb
11

post-Mexico, curried squash and lentil soup, tofu.

This Winter has been quite the little bitch. She’s made me near antisocial with her ice storms, blizzards and general temperatures comparable to a witch’s teat as of late. It seems like she’ll start to warm, and suddenly we’re hit with more unsavory degrees. Everyone’s pretty pissed at her.

I got a few days of reprieve last weekend, when my friend got married in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. The bride and groom are from outside Chicago, met in New York and currently live in London, but they thought Mexico would be the most reasonable climate for a February wedding. I had to tear myself away from the then-16 degree weather, but somehow I made it. Ohh, sarcasm. I’m a fan.

I spent several weeks trying to beat my lumpy post-holiday frame into submission, but it was resisting me pretty hard. I was spending, like, hours at the gym on the daily, getting to know the treadmills, bikes and elliptical machines better than any member of my family.  By the time I unwillingly shed my cover-up while poolside, I felt improved but far from satisfied. According to my beach read, Women’s Health magazine, I should try working out in intervals. I had a brief flirtation with interval training a few years ago, but I quickly abandoned it for being far too challenging. I prefer my workouts sweat-free and routine, thank you. I don’t care for results. Allow me to plug away for months and see absolutely no change in physique. That sounds productive.

Playa del Carmen

Beginning in the resort gym, I started doing intervals which look something like this: walk for one minute at 3.6 speed, increase to a speed of 8 for 30 seconds and run as if Nicholas Cage is chasing you, decrease back down to 3.6, and repeat. Do the whole sequence about 20 times. Hello, sweat? Yeah, you found me. Heart, I’m feeling the pound.

 

Interval training is also effective with hills, which I’ve done just once at this point because it’s so, well, intimidating. To run at a 5% incline while not tripping over one’s feet at a speed of 8 is deserving of a medal. I’ve been alternating the two for about a week now, and I think results are on their way.

I did not hold back whilst (go with it) in Mexico, and at a certain point there was more guacamole shooting through my veins than blood. That’s hardly an exaggeration. It was barely a three-day trip, but I left not being able to zip my pants. I am more motivated than ever, so I’ve decided to try this trendy workout that Kelly Ripa touts. I went to my first class Saturday, and I’m sold. It’s safe on the joints, geared towards woman, and I’m all kinds of sore today. Bring it, muscles. Let’s do this thing.

As the spicy goes, I made this great soup a few nights ago.

Ingredients:

butternut squash and lentil soup

3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1.5 lbs butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks
1 carrot, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp minced peeled ginger
1 tbsp curry powder (I used cumin)
1 c red lentils (I used yellow)
2 quarts water
1 tsp lemon juice (I used a whole lemon)
1 tsp Greek yogurt (my addition)
chopped cilantro, to taste

 

Heat oil and butter in a large heavy pot over medium high heat and then cook squash, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, ginger and 1 tsp salt for 15-20 minutes. Stir in cumin and ¼ tsp pepper, stirring for 2 minutes. Add lentils and water and simmer, covered, for 25-40 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. I served atop this wild rice and quinoa mix, and topped with a little Greek yogurt and chopped cilantro.

I had to lay my immersion blender to rest a few weeks ago when it died mid-salsa blend, so I didn’t even have the option to puree. I’ve pureed nearly every soup I’ve made for months now, so it was an odd sensation eating soup with texture. The rice combined with the vegetables, lentils and dollop of yogurt was really tasty. I highly enjoyed.

Now back to the sweaty…I recently watched “Singin’ in the Rain” and became infatuated with tap dancing. I got myself pretty excited and decided to try an intro tap class at my dance studio. I’ve taken tap before, but my former dance studio transitioned you to clogging pretty rapidly. I never even got to wear the sexy heeled tap shoes and dance with a chair, and for that I’ve always been a little bitter.

Flash forward to present day, and I bought myself a pair of Mary Jane-style shoes and showed up ready to Time Step my face off. Unfortunately, no one else shared my determination, as I was the only one who came to class. As a result, I got a private lesson from the teacher, who had been studying tap for years and filled me in on the social and political reasons why tap stood so low in the already lowest discipline of the art world. Also, I learned the Sham-Sham, which is a totally fun staple known by all tap dancers. The teacher also told me how tap’s roots were intertwined with jazz. It was pretty fascinating, but I can’t decide if I want to actually pursue.

Now back to spicy…in keeping with my post-Mexican low-calorie consumption, I found this fun tofu dish on Epicurious:

randon tap pic

Ingredients:

1 14 oz package firm tofu
½ c whole grain Dijon mustard
4 tbsp vegetable oil
½ medium onion, sliced
1 tbsp minced peeled fresh ginger
1 bunch kale, sliced crosswise
1 small red-skinned sweet potato, peeled, halved and sliced
2 tbsp lime juice
hot sauce, to taste (my addition)

 

You start by cutting the tofu into eight ½-inch slices. Drain on paper towels, and spread both sides with mustard. Heat two tbsp oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and ginger and sauté one minute. Add kale, sweet potato and lime juice. Cover, reduce heat to low and cook for about 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat remaining two tbsp oil in another skillet, add the tofu, and cook for a few minutes on each side. Serve the tofu atop the vegetables, and devour. It really is the most low calorie dish I could imagine, and it had good flavor thanks to the mustard and hot sauce. See below:

mustard crusted tofu with kale and sweet potatoes.

 

 

27
Oct
09

pumpkin polenta soup/squash polenta soup.

Winter squashes terrify me, but in an exciting way. I like to circle them slowly, taking it all in, and then I start the no holds barred grab-assing, if you will. Last weekend involved me, the farmer’s market, like 19 varieties of squash, and that scenario I just recounted. I chose three different kinds and stepped up to the cashier forcing a familiar, almost bored expression. The farmer would have believed I knew my shit if I hadn’t tried to buy the decorative autumn corn to eat:just for show

That destroyed my credibility pretty fast. I took my squashes home with very little clue how I’d enjoy them. I started my gourd discovery in a small way, by using the leftover pumpkin from the prior week. I decided to make a soup I may or may not be stealing from Rachel Ray. I’m pretty sure I added my own touch where the spices are concerned, though, so I feel comfortable taking credit.

I started by cutting the pumpkin into chunks and throwing them in the food processor with two peeled and chopped carrots. I then added a third of a tube of cooked polenta, which is the ultimate poor man’s food. I added some spices in the way of nutmeg, cinnamon and chili powder, and I added about 3/4 cup of water to the processor. I pulsed them all together until they got nice and pasty.

Meanwhile, I cut a shallot, some spinach, a little cumin, and a can of black beans, and I heated them all in a skillet with some extra virgin olive oil. The goal of that was wilty spinach and soft shallots, and I think I accomplished it.

I heated about 4 cups of vegetable stock with about a a tablespoon of butter in a giant pot, and then I dropped the whole pasty pumpkin-polenta-carrot mix inside. Once I stirred for 5-10 minutes, everything was incorporated. I served the soup with the bean and spinach mix on top, and it was so filling and delicious. See below for Rachel’s and my love child:

pumpkin polenta soup with black beans and spinach on top

The soup lasted three nights of so, and for round two I tried it with this fancy looking squash:fancy winter squash

 

 

 

 

 

 

I prepared it pretty similarly, with two chopped carrots, a third tube of polenta, and plenty of seasonings. I’m not sure if this squash is, like, a non-ripened pumpkin in drag, but it didn’t have much flavor on its own. I was forced to pick up the slack by adding brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in larger amounts. I also pulsed it all with water, and then I added the whole mix to the heated veggie stock and butter.

I took a page from the Giada school by adding a little triple cream brie to the top ($1.99, thanks cheese shop), so the end result was much more dessert-y and sweet than the previous soup. If I had foresight of any kind, I would have swapped the pumpkin with the draggy squash in the two different recipes. It was pretty great anyways, though:

squash polenta soup topped with triple cream brie




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