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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Sesame Kale

I’ve been craving kale lately.  Definitely an odd craving, but at least it’s healthy!  With all the great nutrients found in kale (vitamins K and C, calcium, iron…) it’s a great winter vegetable.  This is one of my favorite ways to eat kale.  The dressing is salty, sweet, and nutty from the toasted sesame oil.

Sesame KaleSesame Kale

Serves 4-6

  • 1 bunch kale
  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp mirin (rice wine)
  • 1 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp honey
  • sesame seeds

In a large pot, fill the bottom of your pot with enough water to cover the bottom with 1/2″ water.  Place your steamer in the pot and fill with bite size pieces of kale, removing the stems as you go.  Cover the pot with a lid and turn heat on high.  Steam for about 8-10 minutes, until kale is bright green and tender.  While the kale cooks, whisk together the remaining ingredients.  When the kale is finished, run cold water over it and put in a bowl.  Drizzle with dressing and then sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.  Delicious room temperature or cold.

Turmeric Quinoa with Apricots and Almonds

This is a simple side.  It’s a bit more exciting than your usual rice or plain quinoa.  While the dried fruit adds a little pop of flavor, it doesn’t make the dish overwhelming sweet, just a subtle, chewy fruit flavor.  Turmeric is a lovely spice, so bright and cheery.  It’s also supposed to be good for your joints, so if you suffer from knee pain or any other joint discomfort, try sneaking in some extra turmeric to your diet and see if you notice a difference (then report back!).

Turmeric Quinoa with Apricots and Almonds

Serves 6-8

Adapted from Girl Cooks World

  • 1 3/4 cups dried quinoa
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, thinly sliced
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 3/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 orange, zested
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint, minced
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup dried currants (cranberries or blueberries would also work)
  • slivered almonds, toasted for garnish

In a medium saucepan, combine the quinoa, apricots, broth and turmeric, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and allow to simmer until all the liquid has been absorbed, about 20 minutes.

While the quinoa is cooking, combine oil, lemon juice, orange zest and mint in a bowl and whisk together.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  When the quinoa is done, toss with the dressing.  Mix in the currants and top with toasted almonds.

Roasted Acorn Squash

I have to say that until now, acorn squash was my least favorite squash.  Why have acorn when you could have spaghetti, or better yet butternut: the best of all squashes.  But now I have a finer appreciation for the acorn squash.  As I’ve said before, roasting veggies makes magic happen.  If you think you don’t like a vegetable, give it a good roast in the oven and you might just change your mind.

These are great as a side, but are also pretty great chopped up and put on a salad.  They’re slightly sweet, but still let the squash shine.  After the long roast, I found the skin soft enough to eat, but it’s also easy enough to cut off after roasting.

Roasted Acorn Squash

Serves 4

Adapted from Bread & Honey

  • 2 acorn squash, cut in rings, seeds removed (a biscuit cutter helps)
  • 4 Tbsp butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • Kosher salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 425°F.  Lightly grease a large jelly roll pan with cooking spray.

Spread acorn squash rings over baking sheet.  Dot the top of the squash with butter and sprinkle with brown sugar, salt and pepper.

Roast for about 30 minutes, flip rings and bake for another 25-30 minutes.

First time cooking eggplant

Eggplant is one of those things that I’ve loved at restaurants but have always been a bit intimidated about trying at home.  However, when I saw this recipe it renewed my interest in learning how to cook it.  I am SO glad I did!  This recipe is delicious!  So flavorful, with a great combination of creamy, tangy, salty, crunchy.  You’ll definitely want to try it!

Roasted Eggplant with Smoked Almonds and Goat Cheese

Serves 4

Adapted from this recipe

  • 2 medium eggplants
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 lemon, juiced (about 2 Tbsp)
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup smoked almonds, roughly chopped
  • 2 oz goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup scallions, finely chopped (optional)

Heat oven to 400°F.  Cut the eggplant into 1-inch cubes and put in a large bowl.  Sprinkle with Kosher salt and set aside.

Whisk together olive oil, cider vinegar, honey, smoked paprika, cumin and minced garlic.  Dab eggplant to absorb the water that’s beaded on it due to the salt (this makes the eggplant less bitter in cooking).  Toss eggplant in the marinade and then spread out on a large baking sheet.  Roast for 40 minutes or until very tender, stirring every 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool while you whisk together the lemon juice and soy sauce.  Toss the cooked eggplant in this mixture and then stir in parsley, almonds, goat cheese, and scallions just before serving.

This recipe is awesome!  I haven’t quite figured out what to pair it with, but I think it might be good with a white fish, or maybe just a light meal with some hummus and pita, or try adding in some chickpeas at the end for some added protein.  However you serve it, you’re definitely going to want to try it!