Walnut Stuffed Acorn Squash

The temperature dropped this week, almost freakishly. It got me thinking about Fall and many things associated. We all know that Fall is a time for squash and spices, but is also the time that many of us go back to school, or teach in my case. Not that I dislike working, it brings a full filling structure to life. But this summer has been one to always cherish with my sweet little Arlo. Watching him grow up every step of the way has been a gift I would never have traded for anything.

Arlo has begun to crawl across the floor, wave and play the drum all in the same week. It makes cooking a bit challenging (I probably say this in nearly every post) but I have begun to place him in the pack n play for short periods. He is tolerant for short durations, but today, with his horizontal stripes on he looked like a cartoon prison baby.

Arlo in the Pack n Play

Arlo in the Pack n Play

 

Anti-diabetic, antioxidant Acorn or Winter squash is considered to be one of the worlds most healthiest foods. I heard this once from a woman who ate squash while fighting cancer. It’s just one of those vegetables I think we over look sometimes, in restaurants and at home. There is really no good reason for that, squash is tasty, versatile, filling and affordable.

 

Acorn squash bake while the links simmer

Acorn squash bake while the links simmer

 

I cut the squash in half and set it face up in the oven on 350. There is butter inside the squash and about a half inch of water in the pan. I cooked some hot turkey sausages with a white onion, garlic, and fresh ginger root upstairs on the stove.

Flavors that cooperate: walnuts, ginger, orange zest and juice, raisins, onions, garlic.

Flavors that cooperate: walnuts, ginger, orange zest and juice, raisins, onions, garlic.

 

Biggest mistake that cooks make is throwing things in and tasting at the end. Always taste your food as you go people.

processor blends ingredients so they are a finer ground meat

processor blends ingredients so they are a finer ground meat

I am always a bit skeptical of meat photographs. I mean, who really wants to look at it, especially ground meat. Regardless, I promise you this is a delicious mixture. I put the sausages in the food processor with these other ingredients. I am never exact, you might have figured this out about me by now. I am however, particular about flavor.

  • 2 dash cinnamon
  • dash of clove
  • pinches of dill
  • dash of turmeric
  • handful of walnuts
  • golden raisins
  • hand full of bread crumbs
  • fresh ginger
  • A squeeze of orange
  • orange peel zest
  • Anise seeds
A little water in the pan keeps them moist.

A little water in the pan keeps them moist.

I cooked the squash for about 45 minutes. I removed them from the oven temporarily only to scrape the first half inch layer of cooked squash out, which I mixed with the meat. Next, which is plainly obvious here, I stuffed them heartily. I cooked them for another 30 minutes. Stick a knife in your squash, it should move through like butter, but not fall apart.

with salad

A salad of pickled beets, marinated artichokes, tomatoes, and greens with orange and lime juice freshly squeezed with a little olive oil and salt. The spice mixture in the turkey meat made for a lighter (than beef or pork) yet satisfying meal. The walnuts and spices with hints of orange in the turkey made for a rich but not too overwhelming flavor. I will definitely be making this again. Thanks for being patient Arlo.

 

 

Dandelion, I will eat you.

A Eurasian plant (Taraxacum officinale)

A Eurasian plant (Taraxacum officinale)

 

So I took a walk today to explore the many wildflowers that are blooming right now…

flower2Phlox, geranium, violets and wild mustard are painting the fields with the color that my winter encrusted eyes have wishes for for many months.

Duane came from the market with a bunch of freshly harvested Dandelion greens. They were quite mature and I asked myself what we would do with such bitter foliage. I sought some advice from a few internet sites and discovered that the bitter best not be covered up…for it would be no use. Better to join the bitter flavor with other complex bitters.

dandilion2

I put some fresh ginger in the pan with some peanut oil and then some garlic and onions. Can’t go wrong there. Then I added some soy sauce for salt and a splash of rice vinegar. Some toasted sesame seeds.

rice vinegar

I was also pushing and puling with the flavors of my pan cooked salmon filet. Also fresh ginger, soy, and garlic. You can see a peek of it off to the side here. The honey created a golden color.

detail dandilion

In the end I served them up side by side with some crushed walnuts (also bitter). They bit back a little, but not too hard. It was also really nice to eat them with something else kind of sweet. Sweet!

“I am no more lonely than a single mullein

or dandelion in a pasture, or a bean leaf, or sorrel,

or a horse-fly, or a bumblebee. I am no more lonely
than the Mill Brook, or a weathercock, or the north star,

or the southwind, or an April shower, or a January thaw,

or the first spider in a new house.”

– Henry David Thoreau

 

Seafood Cobb Salad

Seafood Cobb Salad

The marina and restaurant next door has a Seafood Cobb Salad on its menu that is killer. Though expensive to eat out, this salad still has pricey ingredients to make at home though for a much bigger portion and left over ingredients. It’s nice on special occasions, like for this past Easter Sunday dinner. It’s such a rich and luxe salad on its own, it doesn’t need a dressing though I think creaming some avocado with a bit of lime juice would work well as a simple dressing.

  • 3-4 cups Baby Spinach / salad greens
  • 1 ear of Corn off the cobb
  • 1 Avocado Sliced
  • 1/8 cup chopped Red Onion
  • 2 Hard Boiled Eggs sliced
  • 6 Strips chopped crisp Bacon (fat trimmed & broiled)
  • 3-4 Tbsp Blue Cheese
  • 1/3 cup of Lump Crab Meat
  • Peeled and steamed seasoned Shrimp (3-4 per person)
  • 1 filet of Blackened Seared Tuna cubed (optional)

seafood salad

Red lentils and black rice with creasy greens

Around this time of the year creasy greens or Barbarea verna (mustard family) show up in large quantities in the lower fields. We had several friends over this past weekend and they all went home with a bag. They taste a little mustardy, a little sweet, a little bitter. Reminiscent of very young collards, but wilder.

It is best to pick them when they’re about to bloom, so they are not quite as bitter.

Our lower field, usually used for harvesting Hay.

Our lower field, usually used for harvesting Hay.

 

They are drooping a little in this picture because we had an unexpected frost last night. Even the narcissus are drooping.

The greens should be picked before the yellow blooms pop.

The greens should be picked before the yellow blooms pop.

Any part of the greens can be eaten, steamed or fresh. You could also cook them into a frittata. The green buds are the sweetest, so I put them into a salad.

Excellent source of vitamin A, K and B2

Excellent source of vitamin A, K and B2

They will keep in the fridge in a freezer bag with a paper towel for 4-5 days.

Black rice is a super food – no gluten, fat or cholesterol.

Black rice is a super food – no gluten, fat or cholesterol.

 

My salad accompanied this delicious dish, with black rice, and red lentils, cooked with red potatoes and portabella mushrooms. The dressing consisted of lemon juice and olive oil with some salt and dried dill.

Put one cup of black rice and one and 3/4 cup of water in a skillet. Bring to a simmer and cover for 35-40 min. Remove from heat and let sit for 5 min.I like to eat my rice with some yummy sour pain yogurt.

The red lentil dish  combines:

  • 1/2 cup red lentils
  • 2 cloves of garlic chopped
  • a couple of dashes of cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper
  • a dash of cumin
  • 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • Peanut oil (or vegetable oil)

potato

I browned the red potatoes and garlic in peanut oil. When tender, I added chopped mushrooms, cayenne pepper, cumin, salt and pepper, red lentils and stock. Covered the pan and let simmer for 15 minutes or until lentils were tender and soft and the stock completely absorbed.

 

Ginger Jicama & Fruit Salad

IMG_3698 jicama salad A departure from my usual salads I thought I’d try a new vegetable, Jicama. Jicama (pronounced HICK-ah-mah and fun to say!) is a root vegetable, but so crunchy, full of water and slightly sweet and nutty it could be confused for a fruit. It tastes like a combination of radish and apple. Pairing the jicama with fruit, tart citrus, zing of ginger and earthy walnuts makes for a nice light and bright morning  salad. I think I’ll cube the jicama and apple instead of strips, they reminded me of french fries ha! Looks appetizing next to barnacles, eh?!

  • 1 Jicama – Outside skin removed and diced
  • 1 Apple (Gala) peeled and diced
  • 1″ piece of Ginger peeled and grated
  • 2 Mandarin oranges – peeled, segments cut in half
  • 1/4 cup of chopped Walnuts
  • 1/2 juice of fresh squeezed Lime
  • 1 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Salt and Pepper

Shitake Collards

We have an awesome farmers market here in Athens, partially because of the variety, but mostly because they always have lots of fresh mushrooms and greens. Here is a recipe that went so well that I was reminded how much I love cooked greens.  I might eat this till I get back to the size I was before I ever got pregnant. Not only that, it is vegetarian, unless you consider that a mushroom is both plant and animal family.

shitake collards

  • Shitake mushrooms
  • Collard greens or kale
  • Soy sauce or aminos
  • Fresh diced garlic and ginger to taste…Strong flavor
  • Toasted sesame seeds
  • Peanut oil, sesame oil (drizzled)

 

Shitake

Shitake: rich in iron and B vitamins

While your collards are cooking, prepare your shitakes. Fresh chopped ginger and garlic in a pan with a blend of sesame and peanut oil (light oils for high heat). Brown the ginger and garlic before tossing the shitake in, add a few drizzles of soy sauce. Don’t over cook! The combination of these flavors..divine, both sweet and savory.

collards

collards: detox support and antioxidants

After tearing the leaves from the thick center stalks, I steamed my collards in a 1/2 inch of water, a tablespoon of peanut oil (or oil of choice flavor) and dash of salt. They cooked on low for 20-25 min. I did give it a stir or two. I personally think people over cook their greens…as long as they have a soft texture and are still green they are ready.

Sesame seeds: minerals and cholesterol lowering

Sesame seeds: minerals and cholesterol lowering

 

Put some of the greens in a dish, drizzle with soy sauce. Top with shitake mixture. A dash of toasted sesame seeds. Delicious!!!!

pasta eggplant and greens with roasted peppers

pasta eggplant

I made a delicious pair of dishes both using roasted bell pepper.

Spinach dill linguini. Thin slices of eggplant broiled in the oven with olive oil and tons of garlic, some salt. I removed them from the oven and stacked fresh mozzarella cheese and roasted bell pepper on top and baked again till the cheese melted. Place those yummy nuggets on top of the pasta and drizzle some more olive oil. Pepper with oregano, basil and cracked pepper.

My salad

Butter lettuce – oh so mild and tender – cucumbers, marinated artichoke hearts, roasted bell peppers, raw pumpkin seeds, dash of cayenne, cracked rainbow pepper, sprinkle dried dill, whole flax seeds, lime juice, oil, salt, and a smear of goat cheese. peppery and refreshing.

I definitely relate to your pain with the winter, we had yet another snowstorm yesterday.xo

Winter in southeastern Ohio

Winter in southeastern Ohio

Caprese Salad

caprese saladLight lunch, snack, sophisticated appetizer, side dish, I love this classic combination of flavors.

Stacked in layers:

  • Tomato slices with S&P
  • Fresh Basil leaf
  • Fresh Mozzarella
  • Balsamic Vinegar Reduction Glaze

I used a store-bought Balsamic glaze, but I’d like to try making my own reduction one of these days. You simply slowly simmer a bottle of Balsamic vinegar till it reduces to about a quarter of the liquid you started with, it becomes a thick rich glaze. Some add a Tbsp of brown sugar to the vinegar as it reduces to heighten the sweetness. Yum!

Aubergine (eggplant) Salad

Lemon, cucumber, pickled cherry pepper, butter lettuce, avocado, Bulgarian feta, olives, red wine vinegar and fresh squeezed lemon juice.

Lemon, cucumber, pickled cherry pepper, butter lettuce, avocado, Bulgarian feta, olives, red wine vinegar, olive oil and fresh squeezed lemon juice for dressing.

I have made this dish for many friends who confessed that they never really enjoyed eggplant fully until now. So, if you are skeptical, try it, and you might just be surprised.

Duane and I were traveling in Berlin for a performance a couple of years ago and fell in love with a Turkish restaurant in Wedding. We ate there several times before returning home primarily because of the aubergine that had been sliced thin, pan fried in olive oil and lots of garlic, then chilled. Along with some savory yogurt and lamb, it was divine. But when I got home I realized that the already beloved eggplant would become even more beloved as a chilled salad topping. Since then, I have probably eaten it a hundred times. It takes a little effort to make, but if you make a large batch you can keep it in the fridge and throw it on pastas, sandwiches, and salads alike.

Here is what you do:

eggplant1

Pour ample, but not a lake, of good olive oil in a large skillet. Put the heat on medium. Slice the eggplant as thin as possible long-way (from end to end). Chop fresh garlic fine. This recipe uses lots of Olive oil and garlic – I use one clove and about a cup of oil for one large eggplant. Cook the eggplant till brown in each side. Shake of salt, squeeze of lime (optional, but makes it very yummy). Don’t worry about the oil, it keeps you regular and has DHA.

eggplant 3

Lay them in a pile as you go. When you are done, put some plastic wrap over it and store it in the fridge to chill. I had them on couscous yesterday with a dollop of plain yogurt and hummus.

Long Haired Larry’s Caesar Salad Dressing

Utila sunset

Speaking of pirate recipes, Arrrr!!! Here be one I picked up from a Canadian expat I met in my travels – Long Haired Larry A.K.A. ‘Cowboy’ to the inhabitants of the small island of Utila off the coast of Honduras. An interesting and kind character, always accompanied by his sidekick dog ‘Pirate’, he’d often graciously invite me and other transients to dinner at his tropical hut on stilts surrounded by his jungle garden.

Long Haired Larry

Don’t Worry, Be Larry

His kitchen was small and utilitarian like a ship-shape galley. The open cut out window by the sink was a direct deposit to the compost pile below, eliminating the task of emptying completely! The water supply, a 5 gallon jug – spout side up with a hand pump on the top. He loved to BBQ and dinners were cooked on a round marine charcoal grill hung off his porch deck. I’d sit atop one of his homemade bar stools made of twisted vines and take note of his cooking which was slow, genial and social. At one time he owned a popular restaurant bar and grill on the island strip called ‘Skid Row’, where I first met him bantering with locals one night. His food was always the best tasting anything you ever had, but we’d sometimes joke that it might just be attributed to how long it took. Ever bake a potato on a charcoal grill? Even if you weren’t hungry when it started, by the time it was ready you were stAARRRving!

dogs at Tranquilla Bar

Pirate (brown) and Charger hanging at the bar

There were two staples at every meal I shared with him: a whole baked potato with ‘crema’, a Central American sour cream and a romaine lettuce and parmesan cheese Caesar Salad with his homemade dressing.

Caesar dressing ingredients

Here in my journal is the recipe for his Caesar Salad Dressing:

  • Garlic
  • Dijon mustard
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Lime juice
  • Salt & pepper

Nondescript, I know, but I made some the other night that was spot on.

I threw in the Magic Bullet blender 3 cloves of garlic, about a Tbsp of Dijon horseradish mustard (or whatever kind you have), 3 Tbsp of vinegar, a small chunk of parmesan, 1/2 the juice of a lime, and the left over seasoned oil from a small jar of marinated artichokes and a few grinds of S&P.  Reuse the artichoke jar as a container for the dressing.