Autumnal Butternut Squash

This semester I’ve been taking an online nutrition class.  It’s been really fun and interesting.  Our last project of the semester was to try 5 new, whole foods, meaning foods that haven’t been overly processed.  As a child who grew up with a strict one-bite rule, I’m a big fan of trying new things and was eager to tackle this assignment.  Coming up with 5 foods that I’ve never tasted was a bit of a challenge, but I’ve managed to come up with quite a few things and hope to continue challenging myself to try new things.

One of the first things I thought I should try was fennel.  I’ve avoided fennel because I’m not a fan of licorice or anise flavored things.  So with a brave (and skeptical) heart, I bought my first fennel bulb.  Fennel is a good, low-calorie source of vitamin C, fiber and potassium.  The whole fennel plant is edible, the leaves can be use as a fresh herb, and the stalks are good for soups, but I focused on the bulb.  Raw fennel does smell very strongly of licorice, but doesn’t have too strong of a licorice taste, it’s mostly just crunchy like celery.  And when I cooked it in this dish, it was very pleasant.  The sweet notes from the butternut squash, cranberries and apples pairs nicely with the floral and more mellow flavor of the cooked fennel.  We served this dish to some family friends and once I told them about the fennel they could taste it, but otherwise it just adds a nice complexity to the dish.  We served this with pork, but it would also be great as a Thanksgiving side dish.

Autumnal Butternut SquashAutumnal Butternut Squash (A Seat at the Table)

Serves 6

Adapted from Foodie Crush

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, diced
  • 1 fennel bulb, diced
  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled and diced (I cheated and got the pre-cut kind from the grocery store), about 4 cups
  • 2-3 Tbsp fresh sage, chopped
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 large tart apple (I used pink lady, but granny smith would work great too)
  • 3/4 cup water (or apple juice if you have it on hand)
  • salt, to taste

In a large cast iron pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add shallot and fennel and sauté until softened.  Add butternut squash and sauté for a few minutes.  Add remaining ingredients.  Reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer with the lid on for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Check for seasoning and doneness, add more water if needed.  Serve hot or at room temperature.

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Seekers Luncheon

So last Sunday I cooked the quarterly after church lunch.  There were about 55 people and for the first time ever there were hardly any leftovers!  I think at the end of the meal there was one bowl of chili left and one small serving of salad.  It helps that no one told me how many people they were expecting…I was thinking I was cooking for maybe 40-45.

This was definitely a crowd-pleasing menu!  I’ll be posting the new recipes in coming weeks, so stay-tuned!

Three Bean Chili (vegan) – I used my one-and-only favorite chili recipe, but I left out the fake beef crumbles to cut down on cost/make it gluten-free/because the grocery store didn’t have them.

Corn Casserole

Cabbage and Spinach Salad with Shallot Herb Dressing

Apple Pie Bars

Apple Crisp (vegan and gluten-free) – based on this pear and cranberry crisp, but substitute apples for the pears and cranberries.

Stovetop Popcorn

Ok, so our kitchen is being redone.  Which is hugely exciting!  But also means that my cooking options are rather limited for the next couple weeks.  I’ll still try to keep up with posting, but they won’t all be recipes.

While we’re trying to clear out the entire kitchen, the last thing I’ve wanted to do is make a big mess by cooking something, so we’ve been eating a lot of crudités and hummus and popcorn.  Popcorn is actually a whole grain, so it’s a great snack option and one serving is 3 cups!  Sister is totally into popcorn, and her popcorn always tastes the best.  So abandon the gross butter-flavored store bought bags of popcorn and spend just a little bit longer making your own on the stovetop.  It’s totally worth it.

Stovetop PopcornStovetop Popcorn

Serves 4-6

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • about 1/4 cup popcorn kernels (enough to coat the bottom of your pan in one layer)
  • salt to taste
  • varieties:  paprika, cumin, cinnamon-sugar, dill, flavored salts, salt & vinegar

In a large pot (preferably one with a wide bottom, my pot is about 10″ in diameter), heat oil over medium-high heat.  To test the oil, add a couple kernels to the bottom of the pan.  When they sizzle, add a thin layer of kernels over the entire bottom of the pot.  Cover with a lid and wait until it begins to pop.  Once it starts popping, carefully give the pot a shake.  Crack the lid a little to let some steam out, but be carefully not to get splattered with any oil, or heat by the steam.  Continue to shake the pot every so often until the popping begins to slow down.  When there begins to be breaks in the popping turn the heat off.  Continue to shake the pot until the popping stops.  Quickly transfer the popcorn to a large bowl and season with salt (and spices of your choices).  Enjoy!

Egg and Veggie Scramble

We all know we should eat more veggies, so here’s an easy way to start the day’s veggie count early.  This is also a great way to use up some of the veggies in your crisper.  Since this was served for breakfast on the last day at the beach house, we were eager to use up some of the leftover veggies and eggs.  Served with Easy Homefries and a fruit salad, this was the perfect last meal at the beach.

Egg and Veggie ScrambleEgg and Veggie Scramble (A Seat at the Table)

Serves 5

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 large zucchini, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  • 5 eggs, lightly beaten
  • salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • dill, to taste

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium high heat.  Add the onion and cook until beginning to soften.  Add zucchini and bell pepper, cook for a few minutes until beginning to brown (try not to stir it too frequently so it has a chance to crisp up on the bottom).  Add spinach (in batches if necessary), and carefully fold in with veggies until beginning to wilt.  Pour in the eggs and stir together until eggs are no longer runny, season with salt, pepper and dill.  Serve immediately.

 

Easy Homefries

So after making baked potatoes to go with the delicious Santiago Bean Dip, we had a couple left over.  So on our last morning at the beach, it was time to use up the leftovers.  These homefries were the perfect thing.  Everyone loved these and they’re a cinch to make when you already have a cooked potato.  If you don’t have a baked potato on hand, scrub your raw potato, stab it with a fork, and wrap in a damp paper towel; then microwave for about 6 minutes.  The potato should be fork-tender when done.  Allow to cool enough to chop before proceeding with the recipe below.

Easy HomefriesEasy Homefries (A Seat at the Table)

Serves 2

  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 vidalia onion, diced
  • 1 baked potato, diced
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a skillet (I used a cast iron one), heat butter and olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add onion and sautee until translucent.  Add diced potato and cook for about 5-10 more minutes.  Try not to mix the potatoes too much so they have a chance to get crispy and browned.  Add more butter if necessary.  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately, and enjoy!

Santiago Bean Dip

This dip is fantastic.  If you’re having a get together for Labor Day, you should definitely make this.  Everyone will thank you.

My dear friend, Becky, made this a while back for a baked potato bar dinner party, and it was super scrumptious!  I’ve been dreaming about it ever since.  So since we were cooking for vegetarians and gluten-free eaters at the beach, I thought a baked potato bar with this dip would be the perfect thing.  It was a huge hit and the leftovers of this dip make an excellent snack with tortilla chips, or would be great mixed with scrambled eggs, or would be delicious eaten with a spoon!  …I think I need to make this again ASAP.

For convenience sake I left out the rice when I made it at the beach.  Next time I’ll add it in.  It’s not very noticeable, but acts as a great binder for all the delicious beans and cheese.

Santiago Bean DipSantiago Bean Dip (A Seat at the Table)

Serves 8-10

Adapted from The Kitchn

  • 2 (15oz) cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 (15oz) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 (15oz) cans navy beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked rice (optional, but recommended)
  • 2 cups diced tomatoes (I used fresh, but 1 can of diced tomatoes would probably work too)
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  •  1/4 cup pickled jalapeño, diced (optional)
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 6 cups shredded cheese (I used a Mexican blend)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Grease a 9×13″ pan or deep casserole dish with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, mix beans, rice, tomatoes, onion, jalapeño, spices and 4 cups of cheese together.  Season generously with salt and pepper.  Spread mixture into prepared baking dish.  Cover with foil and back for 30 minutes, until bubbly.  Remove foil and add remaining cheese.  Bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, until cheese is melted.   Serve with baked potatoes, chips, eggs, crackers, or spoons!

 

Spinach Pesto Strata

This strata was something that I whipped up because we had guests coming to the beach, a loaf of bread getting stale, and some egg whites leftover from the German Chocolate Cake.  This is a great recipe to make for company since you assemble it the night before and bake it off in the morning.  I didn’t have a recipe for this, so below are just estimates for amounts.  I was a little skeptical of whether this would turn out, but it actually turned out great and was a big crowd pleaser.  It’s also a great multi-meal option, so while I served it as a breakfast, it would definitely work for lunch or dinner too.

Spinach Pesto StrataSpinach Pesto Strata (A Seat at the Table)

Serves 6-8

  • 1 loaf stale bread (I used half of a French baguette and half of a whole wheat boule)
  • 3 cups fresh spinach (thawed, drained frozen spinach would also probably work)
  • 6 egg whites
  • 10 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup pesto

Grease a 10×13″ pan with cooking spray.  Cut the bread into large bite-sized chunks, and add 1/3 of the bread to the prepared pan.  Layer about half of the spinach over the bread, add another 1/3 of bread, the remaining spinach and then the remaining bread.

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg whites, eggs, milk, salt, pepper and pesto.  Carefully pour the mixture evenly over the bread and spinach.  Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning remove the strata from the fridge and preheat the oven to 350°F.  Bake for about 30-45 minutes, or until set, a knife inserted into the middle should be mostly dry.  If the strata starts to brown too quickly, cover with foil and continue baking until set.

Spanakopita Quinoa

Hello, Delicious!  This is a must make.  This super delicious dish is packed with flavor and definitely filling.  Quinoa is a good protein source, containing most of the essential amino acids our bodies need from food sources.  And while I have heard complaints that quinoa is boring, this is anything but boring!  There’s a little spice to it, and a ton of flavor from garlic, onions, spinach, dill, and best of all, feta.  This all mixes together into a creamy serving of deliciousness.  You’ll definitely want to be making this.  Pair it with a simple Greek salad, or grill up some vegetables or chicken to go with it and you’re all set!

I originally made this using a pot and a skillet.  However, I think the spinach would wilt enough just being mixed with the hot quinoa, so I’ve adapted the recipe so you’ll only have to use one pot.

Spanakopita QuinoaSpanakopita Quinoa (A Seat at the Table)

Serves 6

Adapted from An Edible Mosaic

  • 1/3 cup pine nuts (or almond slivers), toasted
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (divided)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 1/8 – 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 tsp dried dill
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 cups water (or broth)
  • 8-10 oz baby spinach
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground nutmeg (optional)
  • 3 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped (or 1 1/2 Tbsp dried)
  • 2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 6 oz Feta cheese, crumbled

In a medium pot, toast nuts over medium heat until fragrant and flavorful.  Remove from pan and set aside.  In the same pot over medium-high heat, add 2 tsp olive oil, 2 cloves minced garlic, and chopped onion.  Sautee until onion is soft and translucent.  Remove contents from pot, and place in a large serving bowl.

Return pot to burner and add 2 tsp olive oil.  Add remaining garlic and quinoa.  Toast the quinoa for a couple minutes until fragrant, stirring regularly.  Add salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, dried dill and oregano, mix well.  Add water, stir, then cover with a lid and reduce heat to medium-low, simmering for about 10-15 minutes, until all the liquid has been absorbed.

Meanwhile, in the large serving bowl with the onion-garlic in it, add the remaining ingredients.  Once quinoa has finished cooking, add the hot quinoa and mix well.  The heat from the quinoa will wilt the spinach.  Garnish with toasted nuts and serve.

Tomato-Goat Cheese Tart

I made this over the 4th of July, and loved the simplicity of it.  This super delicious, cheesy tart comes together quickly, takes advantage of the lovely summer tomatoes, and looks impressive enough for company.  As the saying goes, it’s easy as pie.  I think this would also work well as a galette…which might make it perfect for making at the beach, where pie pans are not always available, but the most delicious farm-stand tomatoes are.  Plain goat cheese gets some extra flavor from rosemary and lemon zest.  You want to be careful to squeeze out the seeds/juice from the tomatoes before layering them on the pie.  Too much liquid and the pie will be soggy.

Tomato-Goat Cheese TartTomato-Goat Cheese Tart (A Seat at the Table)

Serves 8

Adapted from The Endless Meal

  • 1 pie crust (I like Pillsbury)
  • 4-5 large tomatoes, cut off the top and squeeze out liquid then slice
  • 1 cup goat cheese
  • 2 tsp dried rosemary (or twice as much fresh, chopped)
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 lemon, zested

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line 9″ pie dish with pie crust and pierce the bottom with a fork.  Set aside.

In a bowl, beat together goat cheese, rosemary, salt and lemon zest.  Layer goat cheese mixture into the bottom of the prepared pie.

Cut the tops of the tomatoes off and carefully squeeze the juice/seeds out.  Slice tomatoes.  Layer tomatoes on top of the goat cheese layer, until pie is filled.  Sprinkle with a little kosher salt.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, until crust is golden and tomatoes are soft.  Remove from oven and let stand for at least 30 minutes before serving (I couldn’t wait that long, so my slices kind of fell apart, but they still tasted delicious!).

Broccoli Pesto Pasta

With an abundance of broccoli on hand, I was looking for something different to make than the usual steamed or roasted broccoli.  This takes the super healthy benefits of broccoli and turns it into a great spread, or in this case, sauce.  While this is definitely different from traditional pesto since it doesn’t include basil, it still has the nutty flavor from the parmesan and pine nuts.  I topped this with some chickpeas for some extra protein, and grilled summer squash and zucchini for some extra vegetables.  You could also reserve some of the steamed broccoli to add on top or add any other vegetable you feel like.

Broccoli Pesto PastaBroccoli Pesto Pasta (A Seat at the Table)

Serves 10-12

Adapted from Whole Living

  • 1 box whole wheat pasta, I like rotini (I also tried gluten-free brown rice pasta shells that were good with this)
  • 6 cups broccoli florets
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 2/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 lemons, zested and juiced
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • basil to garnish

In a large pot, boil the broccoli florets for a minute or two, until bright green.  Drain and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking.  Refill the pot and cook the pasta according the directions on the box (be sure to generously salt the water!), drain and set aside while finishing the pesto.  Add broccoli and remaining ingredients to a large food processor and blend until smooth (do this in batches if necessary).  Serve with whole wheat pasta and top with favorite vegetables and rinsed chickpeas, if desired.  Garnish with fresh basil.