Archive | October, 2011

Pumpkin Recipes

15 Oct

We are definitely on a gourd kick at our house. And our favorite of all the gourds is pumpkin. Put it in everything — breads, pies, cookies, coffees, beers, stews, curries, pasta sauces — and I’m a happy girl. One of my favorite pumpkin dinner recipes is cheese ravioli with leeks and mushrooms in an easy, creamy, nutty pumpkin cream sauce.  In the interest of saving time I always use canned mashed pumpkin — though if you have the time and patience to break down your own pumpkin, I’m sure it would taste even more amazing.

Ingredients

  • 18 ounces frozen cheese ravioli
  • 1/2 cup butter (1/4 lb), divided in half
  • 1 large leek, chopped
  • 12 oz mushrooms (I like porcini or baby bellas)
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp nutmeg or sage (cook’s choice!)
  • fresh chopped parsley for garnish

Preparation

  1. Prepare ravioli according to package directions. Drain and set aside, keep warm.
  2. Melt half of the butter (1/4 cup) in a skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until mushrooms are browned and tender. Set aside.
  3. Melt remaining butter (1/4) in a medium-sized pot over medium heat. Add leeks, season with salt and pepper. Cook until softened.
  4. Stir in pumpkin and herb of choice (nutmeg or sage) and heat through.
  5. Remove from heat, add milk and half and half. Stir to combine.
  6. Slowly add parmesan cheese, stirring continuously. Return to low heat for 1-2 minutes to warm through, continue stirring so sauce does not scald.
  7. To serve: Divide ravioli  and mushrooms between four plates. Smother with pumpkin alfredo sauce and garnish with 1/4 of the fresh chopped parsley.
Serves four.

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Since the above recipe only required 1/2 cup of pumpkin from a 15-ounce can, and our cupboards were completely bare of cane sugar (I made this the day before big grocery shopping day), my old fallback of using bread as a vehicle for leftover vegetable ingredients wasn’t an option. Instead I scoured the internet for a quick pumpkin soup, and happened upon this recipe. To keep it savory, I used 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar instead of 1 tablespoon of cane sugar and added slightly more nutmeg and pepper. I also substituted leeks for the onion, since that’s what I had on hand. It was a big hit served with a nutmeg garnish alongside a snack platter of Manchego cheese, whole wheat crackers and beer jelly. And it only took 15 minutes to prepare!

Acorn Squash with Turkey and Apple Stuffing

10 Oct

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Fall is here! Time for skinny jeans and leggings with boots, snuggling under blankets on the couch, and — most importantly — delicious, rich and filling dinners.  Without a doubt fall is my favorite season to spend in the kitchen. It’s finally cool enough to make having the oven heating a comfort rather than a curse. The more frequent outdoor dreariness encourages me to get creative with the colors on my plate. And, best of all, fall produce overlaps with the last of summer’s bounty to provide an amazing variety of ingredients.

Last Thursday we entered our final full month of CSA deliveries for the season. Snuggled in among the ears of corn, new potatoes and honeycrisp apples in our crate were two big, beautiful acorn squash — a first for our kitchen. After some thought, I decided that it would be best to let this new vegetable play a starring role rather than a measly, ho-hum side dish. I am so glad I did.

I served one squash half per person with a scoop of brown rice and apricot pilaf, garnished with the toasted squash seeds (why throw away good nutrition?). Recipes follow.

For the stuffed squash:

Ingredients

  • 2 acorn squash
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 scallion, diced (white part only)
  • 1 apple, cored and chopped
  • 1 large sprig rosemary, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Halve the acorn squash and scoop out the seeds and membrane. Prick squash halves all over with a fork and place in a baking dish.
  3. Combine all other ingredients in a bowl. Using hands, mold mixture into squash “bowls”, mounding if necessary. Pour 1/4 inch water into base of baking dish.
  4. Cover tightly with foil and bake for one hour. Remove foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until squash are fork-tender.
For the squash seeds:
  1. Place seeds in a colander and rinse under water, separating them from squash membrane.
  2. Dry seeds thoroughly.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, toss to coat.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until crunchy.
For the rice pilaf:

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked brown rice
  • pat of butter
  • 1/3 cup dried apricots, diced
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • dash of nutmeg
  • dash of cinnamon

Preparation

  1. Prepare brown rice according to package directions.
  2. Melt butter in small skillet over medium heat. Add apricots and cook until warmed through and softened, 2-3 minutes.
  3. Stir apricots and parsley into rice. Sprinkle with nutmeg and cinnamon and stir to combine.
  4. Serve garnished with toasted squash seeds.
Recipes serve four.

Better Than Takeout

10 Oct

Steven and I both work rotating twelve-hour weekend shifts in very busy  hospitals, which makes Sunday night family dinners a laughable idea. No matter how much one loves the kitchen, the last thing anyone wants to do at 8pm is cook! Usually I try to make a big batch of something easy to reheat like chili or soup that I can carry through from Friday to Monday, but even that proves to be a challenge on the Fridays when we indulge in a dinner out. So instead I’ve learned to keep certain items — like leftover pastas, rice, or lean baked chicken breasts — on hand for quick recycling into new meals that take next to no time at all. This one took less than twenty minutes to throw together and, if the chicken salad is made the night before, only five minutes of that time involves being in the kitchen. The rest takes care of itself!

Easy Chicken Salad Sandwiches with Kale Chips

Ingredients

For the chicken salad:

  • 2 baked and cooled skinless, boneless chicken breasts with your choice of seasoning, chopped
  • 2 scallions, diced
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • salt
  • pepper
  • paprika
For the kale chips:
  • one bunch kale, washed and spun in a salad spinner
  • olive oil
  • salt

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 35o degrees. Line two cookie sheets with foil.
  2. Using a sharp knife or kitchen shears, separate the kale leaves from the tough stem. Tear the leaves into chip-sized pieces.
  3. Pile the kale pieces on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and toss to coat.
  4. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the kale is crispy and edges are beginning to brown. (Be careful not to let it go too long or you’ll just have a pile of crumbly, burned kale!)
  5. While the kale chips are in the oven (or the night before), mix all chicken salad ingredients except the paprika in a large bowl. Divide salad between halved crusty rolls with 2 lettuce leaves and 2 tomato slices per roll, garnish with a dash of paprika. Serve each sandwich with half of the kale chips.
Makes two sandwiches.
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Easy chicken salad sandwiches with kale chips

Evolution

10 Oct

Life has gotten in the way of The Grocery Project.

In the coming weeks, I hope to resume blogging with a slightly different format. Our CSA is drawing to a close at the beginning of November, and the winter season of grocery store dependence is approaching. In the spirit of The Grocery Project, I plan to continue blogging tasty, economical and healthful recipes through the fall and early winter.

My hopes are to begin tracking our spending again in January, with the start of a new year (which will include our first year of full membership in a CSA) and hopefully a much calmer home life.

There should be lots of delicious things to share, so stay tuned!