Turning Over a New (Fall) Leaf: Quinoa with Squash & Chard

I have a horrible secret. Something almost too awful admit. Something I’m truly ashamed of.

Are you ready to hear this?

(Deep breath) Here goes: I’ve been letting good food go bad. And what’s worse, I’ve been doing it all summer long.

You see, as the weekends roll around and I relax, I have visions of beautiful fresh produce from the farmers’ market and all the mouthwatering dishes I’m going to make. So, with perfectly pure intentions, I grab my canvas tote bag and head over to the local farmers’ market.

While there I oooh and ahhh over the bountiful produce, savor perfectly sweet fruit samples, chat with farmers, drool over the baked goods I don’t dare to buy, purchase produce I can’t resist, and finally end at a catering tent where I convince the chef to make me the freshest and most delicious egg, veggie and ground lamb focaccia sandwich without cheese.

And then I go home, eat my sandwich, and put the fruits, vegetables and herbs away. I usually spend the rest of the weekend running errands, relaxing, and going to dinner with friends and family. Maybe I cook one dish, but it’s okay I think, I’m going to use the produce during the week.

I’m guessing you know what happens next. I make one dish Monday night when I’m still pretty energized, then Tuesday I have a meeting, and Wednesday I meet a friend for dinner, Thursday I eat Monday’s leftovers, and by Friday I’m so exhausted I order Thai food (a rough schedule, but you get the point). Next thing you know, it’s Saturday, I’m back at the market and I’ve let a whole week’s worth of produce go bad. It’s a vicious cycle, and one I’m ashamed of.

Last week was even worse because I was in San Francisco for BlogHer Food (which was SO great, more on that to come soon). When I got home I immediately noticed the week-old vegetables in the fridge starting to look a little sad, although definitely still edible.

This week, I promised myself, things were going to change. And they did.

I rescued the portobello mushrooms, Delicata squash (such a hearty vegetable it wasn’t any worse for the wear), leek and a bunch of on-the-verge rainbow chard, and used them to make a delicious and very nutritious quinoa dish. (And you know how I feel about quinoa, right? Love it!)

This quinoa dish was wonderful and it tasted like fall, really. Plus, it made so much I was able to eat it throughout the week. And the best part? No wasted-food guilt.

Friends, I think this is the start of a new era!

Here’s the recipe for This Feels Like Fall Quinoa:

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Apple-Pomegranate Salad, and a Last Minute Fix

I’ve been so busy with work lately that this blog, and cooking in general, have been seriously neglected. Yes, I got to spend a week running around New York City attending fashion shows – which was hilarious in and of itself considering I spent the last few years primarily wearing polyester chef whites – but the highlight was a delicious meal at Del Posto.

All the food was amazing, but during that meal I had my first bite of winter squash this season in the form of pumpkin ravioli. Those few bites awoke a fierce squash craving that usually comes on pretty strong once the leaves start turning, so when it came time to think of a vegetable dish (my assignment) for Yom Kippur break the fast, that was the first ingredient that came to mind.

I’d planned a delicious salad with pomegranate seeds and roasted butternut squash, among a few other key ingredients. In fact, the biggest problem I thought I was facing was cutting down the number of ingredients – sometimes I get a little carried away. It turns out that wasn’t the biggest problem, but rather it was that the damn butternut squash had NO flavor! None! Zilch! It was completely bland after roasting in the oven with salt, pepper, olive oil and rosemary. I was fighting a bit of a cold so I had my sister taste to make sure, and she spit it out it was so bad!

Serious squash FAIL! There was no choice, it had to be trashed. I’ll admit I nearly shed a tear, I was just so disappointed. Plus, there wasn’t enough time to go back to the store before guests started arriving so I had to act fast and take stock of what was available in my parents’ kitchen, and quickly decided the only good option was to cut up a few Gala apples.

I tossed the apples with lemon juice to preserve the color, then with mixed greens, pomegranate seeds, toasted pecans, caramelized shallots (leftover from when I thought I was serving butternut squash), Manchego cheese, and my go-to balsamic vinaigrette. Shockingly, this somewhat last-minute salad was a HUGE hit, so much so that I actually got pulled away from my own dinner to mix up another batch. That NEVER happens with my family!

Here’s the recipe for this delicious fall salad:

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Apple Cinnamon Cupcakes with Apple Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

Apple Cinnamon Cupcakes with Apple Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

Apple Cinnamon Cupcakes with Apple Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

This week I was lucky to escape the windy city in favor of sunny Florida where I’ve been vacationing with my family. While I’ve been enjoying relaxing by the pool with my sister, walking with my dad, and doing puzzles with my mom, I haven’t been able to get in much cooking. And this is especially sad given that Thanksgiving is one of my favorite eating holidays, right up there with Passover and that’s just because I’m a sucker for matzo ball soup.

A few nights ago we were eating dinner with extended family and I was excited, not to mention a little surprised, when my sister, Marci, volunteered the two of us to make a dessert to bring to my aunt’s house for the big dinner. It was a little daunting because the home we’re staying in has a kitchen that isn’t equipped with much more than a mixing bowl, hand-mixer, half-sized cutting board, paring knife, and non-stick egg pan. Despite this, I was up for the task.

Apple Cinnamon Cupcakes 1 Apple Cinnamon Cupcakes 2 Apple Cinnamon Cupcakes 6

Apple Cinnamon Cupcakes 1 Apple Cinnamon Cupcakes 2 Apple Cinnamon Cupcakes 3

And quite a task it was. Marci decided we should make apple cinnamon cupcakes with a cream cheese frosting. Sounds great, I thought, as I turned to the Internet to find a recipe to work off of. Well, it turned out a to be a bit more challenging than I’d anticipated.

For starters, there were very few recipes for apple cupcakes and those that did exist had less than stellar reviews or seemed like they’d turn out more like muffins, which are more dense and often dryer than cupcakes. But eventually we came across this Food Network recipe that I adapted to better fit what we were going for. And it still took a bit of trial and error to reach the right level of apple-cinnamony goodness that Marci was hoping to achieve, but we did it!

The final cupcakes were moist with great cinnamon spice flavor and speckled with small bits of apple pieces. And then there was the frosting. Oh my, it was fantastic, both sweet and tangy with just a hint of apple flavor and was a perfect compliment to the cupcakes.

Cream Cheese Frosting 1 Cream Cheese Frosting 2 Cream Cheese Frosting 3

Here’s the recipe:

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Roasted Broccoli Couscous

Roasted Broccoli Couscous

Roasted Broccoli Couscous

Roasted broccoli is without a doubt my favorite vegetable dish. I like broccoli prepared almost any way, but roasting it in the oven with olive oil, salt and garlic brings on a new depth of flavor that is at times both a little nutty and very slightly sweet.

But to turn my favorite vegetable side dish into something I can eat as an entree or as a souped-up side for guests is really something special.

And it’s still quick and easy, taking less than 25 minutes from first wash of the broccoli to serving warm. All you have to do is roast the broccoli, and while that’s in the oven prepare your favorite small grain couscous (I like using whole wheat) and toast a handful of sliced almonds. Then toss it all together and serve.

Please, I beg of you, use those broccoli stems! They’re the best part of the broccoli in both taste and nutrition. All you have to do is peel off the thick outer layer and then slice the stalk into thin coins. So delicious!

Here’s the recipe:

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Brussels Sprouts & Squash Barley with Rosemary Turkey Meatballs

Brussels Sprouts and Squash Barley with Rosemary Turkey Meatballs

Brussels Sprouts and Squash Barley with Rosemary Turkey Meatballs

Food cravings can be unpredictable, but for me they’re a way of life. Often the cravings are for something understandable like chocolate, a salty snack, or even fruit. But for some odd reason this evening I craved barley. There was something about the nutty chewiness of this nutritious grain that I needed.

So, I decided to do a bit of experimenting to see if I could make a full meal based on barley. And… I did. And… it rocked!

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The result was sort of a pilaf of barley with oven-roasted Brussels sprouts and winter squash. And then, from the suggestion of @LDGourmet on Twitter, I topped the whole thing with rosemary turkey meatballs to make for a complete and filling meal.

Brussels Sprouts and Squash Barley with Rosemary Turkey Meatballs

Brussels Sprouts and Squash Barley with Rosemary Turkey Meatballs

Here’s the recipe:

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