Spaghetti Squash with Lentils de Puy, Kale, and Feta

Spagetti Squash

 

You know all those Pinterest post that try to convince you that spaghetti squash is the perfect substitute for pasta? I’m going to tell you something: They are lying. Spaghetti squash is stringy like spaghetti, and it can work really well with some sauces, but the texture and moisture levels are completely different.

Instead of pretending spaghetti squash is something it’s not, let’s embrace it for what it is: A really easy to prepare food that can add an exciting taste, color and texture to your recipe. And, it’s pretty dang healthy.

For this recipe, I tried to balance out the lighter squash flavor and texture (spaghetti squash doesn’t have nearly the same flavor presence as pumpkin or butternut squash) with taste and textures that were both earthier and sweeter. I’m really happy with the results, which make a very satisfying main dish for vegetarians.

Spaghetti Squash with Lentils de Puy, Kale and Feta

Ingredients

  • 1 large spaghetti squash
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon seasoning salt or seasoning blend with salt and paprika
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup green lentils de Puy
  • 1 small bunch laminate kale or other hearty green, sliced into ribbons.
  • 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes (I used yellow), cut in half
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1/3 cup crumbled or diced feta
  • Handful toasted pine nuts (for garnish, optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Mix 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and seasoning salt in a small dish. Generously brush the mixture over the inside edges and scooped out center of the squash (you do not need to coat the rind). Pour any extra into the centers of the hollowed out halves. Wrap each half in tin foil and bake in the oven, cut side up, for 40 minutes.*
  2. Combine lentils and water in a covered pot over high heat. Bring to a boil, then turn the temperature to low and simmer for 30 – 40 minutes, until the lentils are soft. (Unlike other lentils, green lentils de Puy will retain their firm shape, so remove some with a spoon to test.)
  3. While the lentils are cooking, give the kale a bit of a massage (you do not need to do this with other greens), rubbing the ribbons together with your fingers until they are soft. I can’t eat raw kale, so I added it to the lentil pot to steam just as the lentils were finishing, and let it sit in the hot pot with the lid on until I was ready to add it to the squash. If you prefer raw/massaged kale, you can skip that step.
  4. In a large pan, heat the remaining oil. Add the onions and sauté until soft, then add the tomatoes and continue to cook over medium heat.
  5. Remove the squash from the oven and carefully open the packets, taking care not to drip out the oil. Using a fork, flake and scrape the inside of the squash, which should easily form long strands. Add to the mixture in the pan, and pour in any leftover oil.
  6. Add the lentils and kale to the pan, straining out any excess water. Use a large serving fork or tongs to gently mix the ingredients. Top with the crumbled feta and pine nuts. Serve immediately.

* If it’s warm enough to grill, there’s an a wonderful alternative way to prepare the squash using the same three ingredients. Mix the oil and seasoning salt as above, but instead of slicing the squash in half length-wise, cut it half so the stem is on one half and the bottom the other. Scoop out the seeds, then slice the squash into large rings, about an inch thick. Brush all the exposed parts of the flesh with the oil mixture, and cook it on a hot grill. On the grill, it gets some nice caramelized pieces. You can use a fork to pull the strings from the rind, just as with the above method.**

** As another alternative, you can make tinfoil packets and throw those on the grill. Grilled spaghetti squash is one of my dad’s specialties!

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Plum Poppy Seed Pancakes

So, given my inability to cook foods that require flipping, you’ll have to disregard the ragged appearance of these pancakes and trust me when I tell you they are phenomenally good. Fluffy and fruity and full of flavor and the type of carb-y comfort food goodness you want on a winter morning.

stack of pancakes

(I know, I know…another horrible pic. Again, iPhone.)

It all started with a big bag of plums I had. I couldn’t figure out what to do with them. I didn’t really have an occasion for plum cake and I wasn’t in the mood for a crisp, but pancakes sounded divine. And poppy seeds seemed like the perfect addition.

Plums Poppyseeds

In addition to not looking great in a stack on a plate, the pancakes also do not look great when you pour the batter into the pan. That’s because there are lots of slices of plum in them.

Pancakes in Pan

It actually looks like I’m frying them here, but that’s just the juice from the plums reacting to the butter — you only need a little butter or oil at the bottom of the pan, just like with regular pancakes. Trust me, this is one of those projects that seems like a total disaster until you take the first bite. Then, yum!

bite of pancake

Plum Poppy seed Pancakes

(as per usual, I adapted a basic recipe from the New Settlement Cookbook to suit my needs)

Ingredients

  • 3-4 small plums, cut in half, pitted, then finely sliced.
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • dash nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour)
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter

Directions

  1. Sift together the dry ingredients into a large bowl.
  2. Add the sour cream, eggs and butter, stirring until just mixed after each addition.
  3. Gently fold in the sliced plums and poppy seeds.
  4. Heat a griddle or non stick pan with a little bit of oil or butter, lightly coating the pan. The pan is ready when you can sprinkle a little water from your fingertips and it immediately sizzles, but doesn’t evaporate on contact.
  5. Carefully pour your batter into the pan. I used about a quarter cup for each pancake. Cook until the surface is covered with bubbles, then flip and brown the other side.
  6. Remove from pan and repeat step 5 with remaining batter.
  7. These are fantastic with butter, syrup, jam, etc. They also freeze and reheat well (I’ve tried both a microwave and a toaster oven successfully).

Bon appetite!

Frittata: Easier than an omelette

Here’s a secret—I have really bad luck with a few breakfast dishes, mainly the ones that require flipping. I’m flipping challenged. So my omelettes always end up broken and really turn into a hybrid halfway between scrambled eggs and omelettes. I mean, they generally taste good, but I’ve yet to master the skill of creating a perfect omelette folded around a delicious filling. That should actually be a New Year’s resolution this year: I will conquer the omelette in 2014!

But, anyway, in the meantime, while I’ve been omelette challenged, I’ve gotten really good at a few egg dishes that don’t require flipping, especially frittatas. Chances are, you’ve probably had a frittata, even if it was called something else, like a baked omelette or crustless quiche or torta. It’s basically whatever fillings your heart desires, mixed with eggs, and topped with cheese. You start it on the stove and finish in the oven. I’ve seen recipes that call for six eggs and a little cheese and broccoli and I’ve seen recipes that call for three eggs and a million vegetables—the egg to filling ratio is really based on preference, and in my, case, often what I have on hand.

Here’s the first step of a frittata I made the other day:

Frittata ingredients

I started by preheating the oven to 450 degrees and heating a little bit of olive oil and about a tablespoon of butter in my 8-in. cast iron skillet (Hey, Mary, look – I still use the skillet you gave me when we were in college!). Then I added one small baking potato, thinly sliced, a teeny onion and about 4 oz. sliced mushrooms. Plus some salt, pepper and dried basil. I sautéed over medium heat until the potatoes were soft and the onions were starting to caramelize. Then I added my greens, in this case, some roughly chopped Lacinato kale (the nice thing about kale is that it can stand up to the eat without melting away to mush. More tender greens, like spinach or arugula, are going be much softer).

Then it was time to add the eggs. I used three eggs, whisked together with about a quarter cup of milk. Then I added it to pan. I let it cook stovetop on the pan, while I grated a little cheese (Swiss on this particular day). Then I sprinkled the cheese on top, and, using an oven mitt, moved the skillet to the oven.

I check on it regularly, since the time on the stovetop can vary a bit. I like my frittata nice and golden on top, but I know other people love them soft and barely set. Mine took about 20 minutes in the oven.

Frittata in pan

Gorgeous and delicious! If you are looking to be fancy, you can invert the pan over a platter (after loosening the frittata with a spatula) and it will fall out just like a cake. Since it was just me, I simply cut myself a generous slice right from the pan.

The leftovers are pretty good the next day, but not for much longer after that. Much like a quiche, you’re filling ingredients are only bound by your imagination, and while I mentioned breakfast at the top of the post, there’s no reason this can’t be a nice dinner as well.

Slow roasted tomatoes – from the garden

I planted a garden this summer. A huge garden. Then I waited.

Gardening is all about patience. And weed control. If you’re trying to reclaim an overgrown patch of yard, there is lots of weed control.

But, back to the patience…I planted five tomato plants in May, and in late July I started to see a few teeny tiny results.

three tomatoes

But then, a month later, I suddenly was seeing results like this

IMG_0613

Every week. For going on 5 weeks now. So in addition to making sauces, caponata, and a bunch of other old favorites, I was looking for new ways to use tomatoes. And I found an awesome and easy recipe with spectacular results: Slow Roasted Tomatoes.

sundriedtomato

 

This is one of the easiest things I’ve ever made. Doesn’t even need a formal recipe.

Set your oven to 250 (225 for smaller tomatoes, like cherry tomatoes). Cut the tomatoes in half. Place on lined baking sheet. Splash with a tiny bit of olive oil and perhaps some balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with a little salt. Let it slowly roast in the over for three hours or so — till they shrink a bit and start to look a little dry.

They taste fantastic — sweet and intensely flavorful. You can add them to dishes like pasta. I simply stacked them on a piece of french bread with a slice of soft mozzarella. Heavenly.

IMG_0607

Red Lentils and Potatoes with Spicy Tomato Sauce

I’ve been doing a 100 Days of Real Food Challenge with my cooking group. No processed food, no refined sugars or flours, etc. Basically, it means eating as close to what Mother Nature provided as I can realistically get. Pretty challenging, as it turns out. Some things, like eating whole grain instead of refined grains, are easier, while others, like trying to bake without refined sugars, is pretty hard (totally changes the texture). I’m mostly doing it out of solidarity with the group – some people are trying it as a real lifestyle change, to eat healthier.

One thing I like about it, is that it challenges me to try new ingredients and new recipes, and I’ve discovered some new dishes that I really enjoy – like this red lentil dish.

Red Lentils and Potatoes with Spicy Tomato Sauce

  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 5 small red potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 5 ripe tomatoes or 1 15 oz can organic tomatoes
  • 1 bunch collard greens or kale
  • about 2 cups water (or vegetable stock)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. If using fresh tomatoes, dice them, reserving the seeds and juice along with the pieces.
  2. Scrub and finely dice the potatoes. Dice the onion and mince the garlic. Heat the oil in a 4-5 qt pan over medium heat, add the seasoning, and sauté the potatoes, onion and garlic until the onions start to soften.
  3. Rinse and sort the lentils, if necessary, and add to the pan. Stir in the tomatoes. Add enough water to cover the ingredients in the pot. Cover, and let simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. Rinse and slice the greens into ribbons. Add to the pot when the 30 minutes are up, stir in, and simmer, uncovered, until the potatoes are fork tender and the lentils are soft and fluffy.
  5. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Pork Apple Cheddar Meatballs

 

This is one of my go-to dinner recipes, found during the year I had a subscription to EveryDay with Rachael Ray.

Pork, Apple & Cheddar Meatballs

Pork Apple Cheddar Meatballs

They’re oh-so-good, and pretty quick and easy too.

Meatball Ingredients

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground pork (my local grocery has it already packaged in a casing)
  • 1 cup coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 3/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 small, tart apple, such as granny smith, peeled and grated
  • 1/2 small onion, grated
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 12 ounce package  egg noodles
  • 4 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
Directions

  1. Preheat the broiler. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and grease with butter. (I spray mine with my magical oil sprayer)
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the pork, cheese, breadcrumbs, apple, onion, 3 tablespoons parsley, the egg, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. (This is: everything but the noodles, butter and some of the parsley.)
  3. Meatballs ready to mixMix it up with your hands. Ew, squishy.
  4. Meatballs mixedShape into 16 meatballs and arrange on the baking sheet. Broil the meatballs until golden and cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes.
  5. Meatballs cookedMeanwhile, in a pot of boiling, salted water, cook the noodles until al dente. Drain, then return to the pot and toss with the butter and remaining 5 tablespoons parsley; season with salt and pepper. Divide the noodles among 4 plates; top with 4 meatballs each.

Bonus points if you make extra and have lunch for the next day!

Pancake Mix

I love pancakes. Nice real fluffy ones, with some taste to them. Ideally with mini chocolate chips.

Pancakes Final

In junior high home ec class, my teacher had a cookbook (from the 70s) called Make a Mix Cookery. Being the cool junior high schooler I was, I was obsessed with this book. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. You could just MAKE MIXES. You didn’t have to buy mixes OR make things from scratch. Magical!

Now it costs 4 times retail on Amazon. But I bet its still awesome.

Now it costs 4 times retail on Amazon. But I bet its still awesome.

My mother, sensing an opportunity, got it for me for Christmas. Not the vintage 1978 edition but the current one (current at the time, which means I have the 90’s edition and the new one is from 2006. But I’m sure its still awesome!)

MakeaMix

I’ve really only used four mixes from the book, but two of them are such standbys it has more than paid for itself. My favorite (and a recipe I’m known for) is buttermilk pancake & waffle mix.

Pancake Mix Ingredients

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups dry buttermilk powder (I use Saco brand, in the center below, which is available at both major grocery stores in the area)
  • 8 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 8 teaspoons baking powder (which is 2 T + 2 t)
  • 4 teaspoons baking soda (which is 1 T + 1 t)
  • 2 teaspoons salt (that’s, um, 2 t)

Directions: Put in large bowl (mine is a 5 qt, which is the largest I own). Stir together with a whisk to really mix it thoroughly. I always do flour and sugar first, because the buttermilk powder can stick to the sides of the bowl a bit. And I mix the little dry ingredients in with a partially dumped cup of flour because I think they blend better that way. But I may be making that up.

After the mix is done, I put in the medium rubbermaid.

After the mix is done, I put it in the medium Rubbermaid canister.

Making the mix takes ten minutes tops, so its really easy–but even ten extra minutes is no fun when you just rolled out of bed on Saturday morning and want some breakfast. Which is why this mix is so awesome–now its like making Bisquick but better!

Just add:

  • 1.5 cups mix
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 Tablespoons oil
  • 1 egg

Making PancakesAnd mix! I leave a 1/2 cup scoop in my mix, so its just three quick scoops, then a cup of water and 2 tablespoons of oil. If I’m feeling fancy I crack the egg into the empty measuring cup and beat it quickly, but usually it goes right in the bowl. Mix until its all incorporated, but not any longer than you need to, scraping down once or twice for lumps.

THEN turn on the stove. You can go wash your face or something now–leaving the batter to sit for a couple minutes while the pan is warming up gives the baking powder and buttermilk powder a chance to activate and make your pancakes fluffy and delicious. T

Pancake Mixed

You can see the bubbles trying to rise to the surface in this bowl that has been sitting for about three minutes.

These are a specialty on church retreats, and I always bring my own pan AND make a test pancake (why, yes, people do tease me for this. But they also love my pancakes). On my own stove I don’t need to make a test pancake, because I know that 7 is the right setting, but its well worth the time. Know when to flip! The test I always do is to throw a little water on the pan. Its never a good idea to put food (of any type) on a pan that isn’t finished heating (you won’t notice as much with a nonstick pan, but that doesn’t make it a good idea). If the water sizzles and evaporates, the pan is ready for some pancakes. If it takes a little bit, adjust the heat if needed or just be patient. It will be warm soon.

If you have any mix-ins (mini chocolate chips! blueberries! walnuts!) throw them in now. I actually don’t do them all at once, and stir IMMEDIATELY before pouring–otherwise they just sink, so the first one will have three sad little mini chips and the last one will be chips barely held together by trace amounts of pancake. It isn’t cookie dough–batter doesn’t suspend things well. So I throw in a small handful of mini chocolate chips, give it a quick stir with my scraper and pour out some pancakes.

Pancakes Ready to Flip

I love my square pan. Much better than the pair of 8 inch fry pans we used our first semester in our college apartment.

They are ready to flip when you see a good number of bubbles, as above.

Pancakes Cooked

Delicious! Keep a plate on an adjacent burner to stack up the pancakes on–and if something is in the oven, close to the vent. The added heat will keep them warm and ready.

What’s your favorite breakfast food? Pancakes? Eggs? Bacon? (I can’t even make eggs–that’s what Lesley or Boyfriend are for!)

Cooking from a CSA, Part 12: Homemade Vegetable Stock

Remember back in the summer, when I said I was saving vegetable scraps in the freezer to make vegetable stock? I finally got around to doing just that.

It was really easy. First, I put a little olive oil in the bottom of my stock pot. I heated that on medium, and added all my onion and garlic type scraps (leeks, onion pieces, garlic scapes). I stirred that until it was soft (about 10 minutes), then I added some of my tougher or more fragrant scraps, such as carrots, celery and parsnips. I let that cook for another 10 minutes, then just covered everything with water. I let it come to a boil, them tossed in some of my softer scraps, like salad scraps (lettuce, radishes, tomatoes). I added just enough water to cover, and let the whole pot simmer for about 45 minutes. Then I turned off the burner and let it cool.

Once it was cool, I ladled it into appropriately-sized freezer containers, straining it through a fine wire mesh as I poured. I got about 5 1.5-cup containers worth of stock. I froze three of them and used two within the next few days, and they’ve worked great for everything from soup to risotto. For things like risotto, I let the stock thaw in the fridge for 8-24 hours before using, but when making soup, I just tossed in the giant ice cube.

Cooking from a CSA, Part 11: Easy Fall Salad

My most recent CSA box had a great selection of fall vegetables and lettuce greens. This salad was an easy make-ahead recipe that I ate all week. I roasted beets by wrapping them in tin foil and baking them at 375 degrees for two hours. I also diced the butternut squash (only about half the squash), wrapped it in tin foil, and threw it in the oven with the squash for about an hour. Then, I let both packets cool, and simply put them in the fridge.

The next day, I peeled and sliced the beets (after you roast them, the skins slide right off). I put some of my freshly washed mixed greens in a bowl, topped with sliced beets and diced squash, them sprinkled some pecans and goat cheese on top. Easy, delicious and pretty dang healthy!

Cooking from a CSA, Part 10: Sometimes, it’s not exciting

So, what have I been up to? Running. Lots and lots of running. I’ve been training for a marathon for months and the last few weeks have translated to a lot of running and very little of anything else. But the big day is this Sunday, and then I’ll catch you up on what I’ve been doing–because I did squeeze a few fun projects in.

I’ve also been struggling with the CSA the past month or so. It’s been a hard year for the farm, and I completely sympathize with that. We had a hot dry summer, and they lost some crops. That’s part of the gamble you take when you join a CSA. At the same time, though, it’s hugely disappointing to have the amount of food you are getting in each batch drop off at the same time you are switching to a half share.

See, in the spring, I was getting vegetables every week. Almost more vegetables than I could reasonably eat. My grocery bill fell significantly because I was getting big deliveries of produce with a lot of variety every week. But when the summer share started, and I switched to half share–or every other week delivery–the amount of food I received each week also fell. I also stopped getting combinations of vegetables that were easily converted into well-rounded meals. So I’ve had to go to the grocery store to buy stuff to round it out, which is really disappointing when I’m pay so much money per month for veggies.
That’s not to say that I’m not happy with what I’m getting, just that I was expecting a little more–more tomatoes, for instance. Or zucchini. Or eggplant. But I’ve actually gotten more tomatoes from my mom this year.

We’ve definitely made the switch over to fall here in Milwaukee, and I’ve been taking advantage of the cooler weather and roasting most of my vegetables. This week I made a nice, almost stew-like batch of roasted veggies with potatoes, onions, cauliflower, turnips,  and carrots. I sprinkled a spice mix (Forward from Penzey’s, a paprika-based blend), salt, pepper and little bit of honey on top and baked for about an hour. That’s the type of simple meal I’ve enjoyed. Not too exciting, but a great way to get a hearty meal out of a random mix of vegetables (note: I bought the potatoes and onion at the store to round out the veggie mixture).

Hopefully as the season winds to a close and I started getting fall squashes, I’ll feel more inspired.