Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fall Lentils

This was my first experience cooking lentils. It's something I've been wanting to do for a while. Well, "a while" is sort of relative. I was standing in the bulk bin isle at the grocery store two weeks ago and realized everything was 10% off. So I started loading up on everything I'd been wanting to cook. And then I saw lentils and though "I should cook with lentils. Wouldn't I be super cool if I made something out of dried lentils?" And yes, thank you, I realize that the word "cool" in that phrase is also relative.

This dish is a little sweet from the sweet potatoes and ginger but it's also spicy from the jalapeno and the garam masala. It also made a giant batch and it was the perfect lunch for the rest of the week.

Curried Lentils with Sweet Potatoes
Adapted slightly from Smitten Kitchen, originally from the New York Times

2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced (or grated, but I always just mince mine)
1.5 tsp garam masala
1.5 tsp curry powder
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
4-5 cups vegetable broth (I used all 5)
2 lbs sweet potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 1/2 cup dried lentils
1 bay leaf
1 lb Swiss chard, center stalks removed and torn into pieces
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, jalapeno, garam masala and curry powder and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Stir in 4 cups of broth, sweet potatoes and bay leaf. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover and cook for 25 minutes. Add up to 1 cup of stock as necessary if lentils look too dry. Stir in chard, salt and pepper and continue cooking until lentils are tender, about 30-45 minutes total.

Stir in parsley and serve.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Butternut Squash Soup

Oh boy it's soup season. I love soup season. I love soup.

Who remembers using chat rooms? I feel like in the mid 90's they were awesome. Well, they were awesome if you were a nerdy 10 year old and thought that getting on the internet was awesome. And I might just have been one of those nerdy 10 year olds. My oldest friend, Rachel, and I would log on to chat rooms and say extremely random stuff until people tried to kick us out. One of our favorite annoying phrases was "I love soup". We would then proceed to list all of the soups we liked. When you're a nerdy 10 year old, this is completely hilarious. Not that I was a nerdy 10 year old or anything.

If you were in any of those chat rooms, I'm sorry. Please don't hate me.

And... I love soup.

Butternut Squash Soup
Adapted from Emeril Lagase
This is one of my favorite soup finds. It is so warm and hearty and squashy. It make it feel like fall. And it makes me happy. I hope you like it!

I've tried making this vegetarian, using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth, and while it's good, I really think it's better with chicken broth.

Serve it up with a salad to make it a complete meal.

1 butternut squash
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 small carrots, sliced
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 jalapeno, minced
2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup heavy cream

Peel and chop the butternut squash into 1/2 inch cubes. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large pot. Saute onions until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add carrot, cumin, salt and pepper, and jalapeno and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add stock and butternut squash. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 25 minutes, or until squash is tender. Remove from heat and puree using an immersion blender or in batches in a food processor. Return to heat, add the cream, and salt and pepper to taste.


Also, I love soup.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Squash Fest Continues With Roasted Acorn Squash

Is it just me or does the title of this post make anyone else think about mosh pits at a giant outdoor punk rock music festival?


Did no one else experience being slammed against your will into other sweaty people while holding on to your 6'5 friend with a death grip so you don't get completely trampled by a group of rowdy teenagers?

Anyone? Bueller?

OK, so I went to the Warped Tour once back in my teenage years. And I "moshed" as much as you can call suddenly being in the center of a bunch of guys with mohawks jumping, pushing and shoving their way into everything and everyone within a 4 foot radius while you frantically flee for you life. I'll admit it. But can't you just hear, "And now Squash Fest 2010 continues with the Roasted Acorn Squash!!! Yeeeeaaaaaaahhhhhhh!!!" booming over the sound system?

I'll take that looming awkward silence as a no.

I can't help the random things my brain spits out. It just happens.

Let's all just forget that happened and return to the main topic, the continuation of Squash Fest 2010, for it is yummy.

We bought these two little acorn squash from the farmer's market last week. I'd been wanting to try this recipe even since I first saw it. And I was happy I did. A quick warning: this is such a sweet dish that you could practically have it for dessert instead. It reminded me of the candied sweet potatoes that my Mom serves with Thanksgiving dinner. And since she serves candied sweet potatoes with dinner, I decided I could serve candied acorn squash with dinner. It made eating near-dessert for dinner seem much more acceptable.

Roasted Acorn Squash
Adapted slightly from The Pioneer Woman
The only thing that I do differently from this recipe is not to score each of the squash before roasting them. I think this would allow the buttery sugary liquid to seep further into the squash flesh, but it thought it was just fine without it. I liked being able to taste some of the squash after dipping it into the vat of deliciousness at the center. I'm sure it would be completely amazing either way though. And mostly I forgot to do it.

2 acorn squash
4 tbsp brown sugar
4 tbsp butter
Pure maple syrup

Preheat oven to 400.

Cut each squash in half, lengthwise. The skin on these is super tough though, so be careful. Once you've gotten through the skin, the knife should slide easily. Scrape out the seeds and the gooey membranes.

Lay each of the squash halves skin side down onto a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle each with salt. Add 1 tbsp butter to each of the squash halves, followed by 1 tbsp brown sugar. Drizzle each of the squash halves with a little maple syrup. Add 2 cups of water to bottom of the pan to give the squash some moisture while they roast. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 30 minutes, or until fork tender.

Turn the broiler on for about 5 minutes to let the squash get slightly browned and the sugary mixture to bubble. Remove from the oven and transfer the squash to a serving platter. Scoop a little bit of the brown-sugar butter mixture over the edges and sides of each of the squash halves.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Delicious Homemade Pumpkin Pie

I did it again.

Another week or more has gone by since I've even thought about blogging. That whole hitting the ground running thing I had to do after my last post was more like hitting the ground sprinting in a uphill three-legged race.

And then there was the recovery time, which was absolutely and completely necessary. I spent three days staring at the wall in my living room while basic functions seeped back into my pathetic brain that had been wrung out too many times.

But, slowly I regained the ability to make eye contact with people and even communicate. Although that last one took a while. Once I stopped blabering at John like a toddler and actually started forming coherent sentences, I knew I was back to being me.

Contributing to my road from brain-in-a-blender to normal functioning adult was this pie. We made it Saturday night during Squash Fest 2010. With the leaves falling and digging out all of our old sweaters, this topped off our welcome to fall party.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Delicious Homemade Pumpkin Pie

This was my first attempt making pumpkin pie completely from scratch. It takes a lot longer than opening a can and dumping pumpkin puree in, but the taste is amazing. It's the best pumpkin pie I've ever had. If you're not in the mood, then simply dump in 16oz of your favorite pumpkin puree and call it a day. I won't judge. Especially if you share with me.

My mother-in-law e-mailed me this recipe while I was standing in the baking goods isle at the grocery store so I don't have a source, therefore

Adapted from the back of some can of pumpkin puree

Thanks Donna!

1 pie crust (I always use this one)
2 cups pumpkin puree
12oz. evaporated milk
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves

Prepare Pumpkin Puree
Preheat oven to 350.

Cut the stem out of the pumpkin just like you're getting ready to carve a jack-o-lantern. Scrape the seeds and the gooey bits from the pumpkin. Save the seeds and roast them later!

Carefully cut the pumpkin in half, and then cut each half into thirds or quarters. Lay each piece of pumpkin skin side down on an ungreased baking sheet. Roast for at least 45 minutes, or until the pieces can easily be pierced with a fork.

Cool until you can handle them comfortably (do not be like me and nearly burn half of your fingers because you're so impatient to make pie) and peel the skin off each piece of pumpkin. Throw the skinned pieces of pumpkin into a food processor in batches and puree until smooth. If it looks too thick, drizzle enough water so that the puree is smooth and creamy.

If this makes more than 2 cups of pumpkin puree, freeze the rest and be rejoice in the fact that you get to make another pie later with minimal effort.

The Pie
Combine all ingredients into a bowl and whisk until combined. If there are any leftover chunks of pumpkin that didn't get pureed well, you can always remove them for a smooth and consistent texture. Or you can leave them in and call it a rustic pumpkin pie. Or a lumpy pumpkin pie. I left them in. I'm like, totally rustic. Or something. Anyway, they were delicious.

Pour the filling into the prepared pie crust. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until a knife put into the center comes out clean.

Wait impatiently while the pie cools for at least 30 minutes (ok, I waited 10) and serve.

Oh, and make sure you whip up some of this to go with it.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Simple Sauteed Spinach

I know I know. I haven't been seen around here in a while. Between work, life, and everything in between I've hardly had time to sleep lately. This is the first weekend I'm actually home out of the last 3 weeks and I have absolutely nothing to do. Except finish that grant I'm supposed to be writing. But everyone procrastinates during grant season! (Right? Fellow scientists back me up here.) And the last 12 hours was the longest stretch of time I've had where I didn't receive one grant-related e-mail out of the last 4 days. I'm reveling in my "free time" before I have to hit the ground running again tomorrow.

To celebrate, I'm cooking up a squash filled dinner tonight with these gooodies:

The menu for tonight's dinner:
Grass-Fed Sirloin Steak a tiny little stand at the farmer's market
Roasted Acorn Squash
Collard Greens
Homemade Pumpkin Pie from scratch

I can't wait to share it with you tomorrow!

In the meantime though, I'll leave you with this tiny little recipe to hold you over until the squash explosion that will occur here over the next few days.

This is one of these things that I throw together at the last minute when I realize the only thing on our dinner plates is cheese and carbohydrates. That's usually when I usually feel a small sharp pain in my chest and realize that if I don't consume something that isn't entirely made of cheese and pasta I might just have a heart attack right then and there.

OK, that's not true. In my opinion, a dinner consisting of only cheese, pasta and bread is perfectly acceptable. In fact, it's one of my favorite dinners of all time. But if that isn't your style and you want to increase the nutrition factor in your meal without a lot of effort, you've come to the right recipe.

Simple Sauteed Spinach
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
5 oz spinach

You can easily add other fancier things to this dish like slivered almonds, shallots, anything at all really.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds, just to release the flavor. Be careful not to burn! Add the spinach in bunches and cook until completely wilted. Eat and feel healthy!