Thursday, November 20, 2014

Roasted Beets and Butternut Squash with Rosemary and Sage

This is a great fall or winter side dish.  Perfect for Thanksgiving next week too!  It is comforting and warm, hearty yet healthy, and just so delicious.  You can add in other hardy vegetables too- parsnips, sweet potatoes, carrots, rutabaga all work well.  And you can certainly omit the rosemary and sage if you want, but I had some already and thought that they'd be a nice change of pace from my usual more basic roasted vegetables.  They add a subtle earthy "herbiness" and fall flavor.  I also added a couple jalapenos for some kick, and, boy, did they add a kick.  We like spicy around here, but you'll probably want to leave those out if you don't. :-)

I served this with seared tuna steaks.  The leftovers would make a great topping for a salad with goat cheese, nuts, and a light vinaigrette.

What you need:

I medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks

1 1/2 pounds beets (I think I used 7 medium/small ones), ends cut off and cut into 1 inch chunks

2 jalapenos, stems removed, cut into 3-4 pieces
Olive Oil

1-2 teaspoons cumin

A few sprigs of fresh rosemary and a few sage leaves

Salt and Pepper

Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place your cut up beets, squash, and jalapenos in a large bowl.  Your squash pieces should definitely be larger than the beet pieces!  They cook faster.  Drizzle with olive oil (I try to keep it light, using about 2 tablespoons).  Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and cumin.  Add the rosemary and sage.  Toss everything around to make sure the oil and salt are evenly dispersed.  Spread this on a 13 by 9 inch sheet pan.  Roast for about an hour, mixing halfway through.  If you want a little extra crisp on them, leave them a little longer and turn the heat up to 425.

Remove rosemary stems. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Braised Chicken Thighs with Apples and Cumin

This is a pretty quick recipe braising recipe and all stove-top.  You could certainly finish in the oven if you are using a Dutch oven, but I don't have one here, so I went stove-top all the way.  Still delicious.

If you want to perfect your braising method, take a look at this link to Bon Appetit.  It's basically a list of rules that should be followed for anything that you want to braise.  I didn't really follow their rules too well, but I'm sure if you took the time to, you'd really have a prize-worthy dish.  My recipe simplifies braising for the perfect stress-free weeknight dinner.

I made this to accompany leftover vegetables from the night before.  (and then I didn't finish this post yesterday... so we just had the now leftover chicken tonight and it was even better!  I love making plenty for leftovers. :-))

What you need:

1 1/2 boneless and skinless chicken thighs, extra fat trimmed (if you have bone-in, up the cooking time)
2 teaspoons coconut oil or olive oil
1 cup chicken broth
2-3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 medium onion, cut into small pieces
2 small/medium apples, cut into chunks (core removed, of course.  but I left the skin on)
dash of cayenne
2-3 teaspoons (or more) cumin
salt and black pepper to taste (I don't think I ended up adding any salt-the chicken broth was enough)

Heat oil on medium-high in a large pot or high-walled saucepan.  Place chicken thighs evenly in pan, so that they all have a full side on the bottom (if there is not enough room, do batches).  Let sear for 3-5 minutes and flip.  Sear on that side for another 3-5 minutes.  The chicken should get a nice deep brown on it.

At this point, you can do this more properly and remove the chicken from the pan- I didn't do this.  Either way, next, add your apples and onion.  Saute for 4-6 minutes to achieve a little browning.  Add a splash or two of the vinegar if things are sticking too much at any point.  Add your chicken back in if you removed it.  Add the rest of the vinegar and add the chicken broth.  Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and let simmer for 20 minutes.  I left my lid just a TINY bit cracked to let steam out.  Remove the lid and let the sauce cook down a little more for about 5 minutes.  Add the cumin, cayenne, and black pepper (and salt if it needs it).

This would probably be fitting to serve over rice or quinoa if you want. We had it as is though.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Simple Roasted Cauliflower

This is a super simple recipe and my favorite way to make cauliflower.  Even people who think they don't like cauliflower will most likely like it.  Like most things, you just need to know how to make it right.

I made it to accompany some stewed eggplant curry and beef that was stewed with ginger and garam marsala, which is why I did a "curry" version.  I often make it with just salt and pepper.  You can add whatever spices you like- garlic powder, cumin, and paprika are in my rotation.

What you need:

1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
Olive oil or oil oil spray
Salt and pepper
Curry Powder (or sub whatever spices you want)

Heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  Spray or lightly grease a 13" x 9" pan with olive oil. Spread cauliflower florets across the pan.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and curry powder.  Lightly drizzle or spray with olive oil.  Toss everything around and make sure that it is evenly spread across the pan.  Roast in the oven for about 12-15 minutes, stirring halfway through.  If you leave it a little longer, it gets awesomely crispy (I couldn't do that this time because my apartment's smoke alarm is stupid sensitive, which is a bummer).  You should get at least a little brown on it- much tastier that way!


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Spaghetti Squash with Meat and Veggie Sauce

I'm not a pasta/grains person anyway, and used to just eat things that were supposed to go over pasta/rice/quinoa over lettuce or spinach or nothing instead.  Yeah, I know the lettuce is a little weird, but adds nice volume and tricks you into thinking you have a huge plateful of food (awesome trick for an Indian restaurant buffet- skip the rice!).

But then I added spaghetti squash into my lettuce/spinach/nothing rotation, and I'll tell you, it's much more "other people" friendly.  It is a little strange to serve yourself a plate of lettuce and then dump meat sauce over the top when everyone else is having pasta or whatever with their sauce.  Spaghetti squash doesn't get so many strange looks and everyone I've ever introduced it to likes it.  You could even mix it half and half with real pasta for those suspicious eaters.  

It's perfect for anyone trying to eat less carbs, going gluten-free, or just trying to avoid processed foods. Or anyone who just plain doesn't like pasta.  It doesn't really have much flavor of its own, but has a nice crisp texture.

The sauce I made this time is pretty simple and quick.  I added ground beef to it, but added plenty of vegetables so that the beef would stretch a little further and we'd eat a little less of it.  You can add whatever other vegetables you have on hand (eggplant, zucchini, peppers) and leave out the mushrooms if you want.  Add a splash of red wine if you have a bottle open. :-)

This will make 4-6 servings, depending on appetite and if you have any sort of side dish.

What you need:

1 spaghetti squash (medium-sized, I guess?)

1 pound of ground beef (mine was 96/4... if you use something much fattier, make sure to drain it!)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small/medium onion, diced
8-9 cloves garlic, minced (or less if you aren't a garlic fiend)
1-2 stalks celery, diced
1 teaspoon salt
1 large carrot, diced or thinly sliced
12 ounces mushrooms, cut into small pieces
1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes

Seasonings: (mix these up as much as you want, depending on what you have)
     Italian seasoning, oregano, basil, rosemary, sage, crushed red pepper, thyme...

     This time I used: Italian seasoning, fresh rosemary and fresh sage... because that's what I happened to have.  I often just go heavy handed with the dried oregano and thyme because those are often what I have on hand.

Roast the Squash:

Start by roasting your squash.  I did it in a 350 degree oven for about an hour this time.  Whole, with a couple of fork pokes.  This does mean that you have to deal with the seeds and pulpy stuff after it cooks... which is a little more of a pain.  But you don't have to saw through it at least.  

You can also cut in in half first, remove the seeds, spray the cut side with oil, and roast it for 30-40 minutes.  Or you can microwave it (google that... I never do it that way).  It's hard to overcook it, but very possible- apparently.  I did it last time I made spaghetti squash, but before that I would have said it was nearly impossible.  But I guess it is- it will turn to mush and become decidedly un-spaghetti like.  When it's done, it should be slightly soft and easy to cut into.  If you run a fork through it, the strands will appear.

Make the Sauce:

While your squash is roasting, make your sauce.  Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the ground beef and let it brown.  Add the onion, garlic, celery, carrot, and salt.  Sauce for about 5 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and saute for another 3-5 minutes.  Add both cans of tomatoes and your seasonings.  Bring to a simmer, and reduce heat to medium-low.  Let simmer for at least 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  If you have more time, let it simmer longer, but keep the pot mostly covered.  After it has simmered, season to taste with salt and pepper.

Shred the spaghetti squash and serve with the meat and veggie sauce on top.  Sprinkle with a little Parmesan if you'd like.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Roasted Rack of Lamb Crusted with Pistachio, Rosemary, and Parsley Pesto

I haven't cooked a rack of lamb for A WHILE- it's little too expensive to earn a spot on my general rotation of proteins to buy, and then I forget about it completely.  But my mother-in-law bought extra and I got to take a rack home with me!  This was one rack, which serves 2-3 people, depending on their appetites.  My mother-in-law also gave me fresh parsley and rosemary from her garden (which is still going a little, even in November!), so I made a pesto with those and some pistachios I already had in the cupboard.  I just roasted it in the oven to save washing extra pans, but I think it technically would have been best to sear it, then add the pesto, and then roast.  But this was delicious, and I don't have a saucepan to wash.  I served it with Caesar salad with homemade dressing.  ...And french bread and a little red wine for a treat.

The pesto I made is more than enough for the lamb.  I only had a Vitamix to blend with and a smaller amount wasn't going to blend.  So reduce the ingredients if you don't want extra pesto, or make the whole amount and use the pesto for something else.  

What you need:

One rack of lamb

Pesto Ingredients:
1 1/2 packed cups fresh Italian parsley 
1 sprig of rosemary, leaves only
1 cup fresh baby spinach (this only got added because I needed more bulk in my Vitamix and had some to use up anyway)
1/4-1/3 cup pistachios
2 large cloves of garlic
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Blend all ingredients in a food processor or Vitamix until coarsely chopped. 

Place lamb in a small roasting pan (7" by 11" is pretty good). Trim excess fat from rack of lamb.  Spread the pesto on top of the meaty side of the lamb.  You should have a nice thick layer.  Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Let the lamb sit for about 20 minutes to come to room temperature while the oven heats up.  

Place the lamb in the oven and roast for 25-30 minutes.  Mine was in for 25 and it was on the rare side of medium-rare.  Remove from oven and let sit 5-10 minutes before carving between the ribs.