It snowed almost all day today. The sandhill cranes must be getting ready to head south, because I could hear them at dusk this evening, calling and honking and making such a racket, gathering at the bird sanctuary near here. These are perfect times to roast vegetables, using nature’s bounty, warming up the kitchen, warming up ourselves. The recipe I have posted below is very flavorful and nourishing. I love the color combination of the vivid, golden butternut squash with the deep purple of the onion. Butternut squash and cauliflower can taste a little bland when cooked all on their own, but when they are roasted with a little olive oil, red onion and garlic, and then tossed with lemon and toasted walnuts, the result is delicious flavor and lots of nutrients. Add some grated Parmesan cheese, spoon the mixture into a pita pocket or onto a piece of flatbread, and you have a light, yet satisfying meal. This time of year makes me think of the following quote by the poet Wendell Berry: “Eating with the fullest pleasure is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world. In this pleasure we experience and celebrate our dependence and our gratitude.”
Butternut Squash and Cauliflower Roasted with Red Onion and Garlic
- 2 cups butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed in 1/2-inch pieces
- 2 cups cauliflower, cut into florets
- 1/2 cup red onion, sliced
- 1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup walnuts
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 4 pita bread pockets or 2-4 pieces flatbread
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Wash and chop/slice the vegetables. Spread the vegetables in a single layer onto a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Roast in your oven for 30-35 minutes, or until the vegetables start to turn lightly brown and are crisp-tender. While the vegetables are roasting, grate the teaspoon of lemon zest and squeeze the tablespoon of lemon juice into a cup. Also, on a separate baking sheet, lay out the walnuts and pita bread. For about the last five minutes of roasting time, place the walnuts and pita bread in the oven with the vegetables, till the walnuts are lightly toasted but not burned. Remove the walnuts, pita, and vegetables from the oven and toss the vegetables and walnuts in a bowl with 1 more tablespoon of olive oil, the grated Parmesan cheese, the lemon zest and lemon juice. Gently spoon the mixture into the pita pockets or spoon onto flatbread. Enjoy!
I love it when I find a recipe for a dish that is fun, seasonal, healthy, and pretty. This month, I had an acorn squash sitting on my counter top for longer than I would care to admit. (Luckily, they keep really well!) I wanted to use it, but I just kept putting it off. Then a couple of days ago, I was leafing through one of my many favorite cookbooks, Mrs. Chard’s Almanac Cookbook: Hollyhocks and Radishes, by Bonnie Stewart Mickelson. This cookbook is so much fun to simply look at, with lots of stories and beautiful illustrations about life in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. And the recipes are beguiling too, with many of them based on local, seasonal produce. I found a recipe for acorn squash that caught my eye, and I am so glad I found it that I wanted to share it as soon as I could get a blog post together. The recipe combines acorn squash with apples and a brown sugar/lemon juice/ginger mixture. Not only does this combination taste really great together, but it also looks so festive. And it is super-easy–most of the time it is simply baking away in the oven, warming up your kitchen and making it smell divine. You can scoop out the apple/squash mixture and serve it in bowls, but if you find small enough acorn squashes, they serve as their own pretty bowls. The only thing I did to change the recipe is that I cut it down by thirds, since I was only making enough for my husband, myself, and our children this time. And truth be told, not everyone in the family is a squash-lover. But some of us are, and we really enjoyed this side dish. (I even converted one non-squash-lover into a squash fan!) For the recipe I post below, I will use the amounts given in the above-mentioned cookbook. However, if you are cooking for a smaller group, just divide by half or thirds. If you are looking to jazz up a standard squash dish or need a fun dish to make for guests, this is a good one to use.
Apple-Filled Acorn Squash
- 3 acorn squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
- 4 tart apples, peeled and sliced
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- about 6 Tablespoons butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place squash halves, cut-sides down, in a buttered baking dish. Bake 35 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine apples, lemon juice, brown sugar, and ginger.
Turn baked squash over and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Fill with apple mixture, then dot with butter. Return to oven for another 25 minutes. Enjoy!
This recipe comes from Mrs. Chard’s Almanac Cookbook: Hollyhocks and Radishes by Bonnie Steward Mickelson.
In some ways, music and food are very similar. Both can transport us to earlier times. A well-loved song or a certain dish can remind us of a beloved place or a long lost friend. The other night, I put on a Lucinda Williams CD to listen to while I was doing dishes. The last song took me by surprise. I hadn’t listened to this album in quite awhile, and I had forgotten which songs were on there–but when Lucinda started singing “Which Will,” a song written by English singer/songwriter Nick Drake, I felt myself become full of sentimental nostalgia. Right away I was transported back to a dorm room in Bremen, Germany, twenty-seven years ago. A good friend of mine had sent me a mix tape (that shows my age!) when I was studying in Germany, and the song “Which Will” was on that tape. Because I had brought just a small amount of things with me for my seven months studying abroad, I listened to that tape over and over. Immediately, I thought of the friend who had sent me the tape, because it was so comforting to receive music when I was far from home. And then I thought of my time in Germany, and what I was often doing when that song was in the background: daydreaming, cooking, eating, and having great conversations. I was staying at that time in a dorm full of international students, all of whom were learning German. I became good friends with a woman from Colombia, and we often cooked and ate dinner together. I can remember evenings sitting at a tiny table with mismatched chairs, listening to the rain spattering the street. We would often invite other students walking down the hall to come in and eat with us, as we were all practicing our German speaking skills and learning about the different cultures gathered in the dorm. One of our standard meals was the pasta dish posted below. I don’t believe this dish is particularly German, Colombian, or American, but it is so easy, colorful, and nourishing, and anyone can make it, even two international students on a tight budget in a tiny dorm kitchen, communicating in a language that is not their own. It is kind of a meal borne of necessity, but enjoyed to the fullest because of its simplicity and quality ingredients. It’s also a great meal for busy people who come home from a long day and don’t have a lot of time to make a complicated dinner, which is why this meal is still relevant in my life today. Good food and music are warm and comforting on a cold, dark, rainy evening, and we had many of those in northern Germany in wintertime, and we are experiencing them at this time of year here as well.
Pasta with Tomatoes, Spinach, and Sausage
- 12 ounces of pasta, any kind
- 8 ounces of high-quality kielbasa or bratwurst, sliced in bite-sized pieces
- 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
- 1 cup spinach
- 4-8 ounces cheddar cheese, cut into small chunks
- 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- Parmesan cheese
Cook the pasta as directed in salted, boiling water. While pasta is cooking, slice the sausage, tomatoes, and cheese. When pasta is just tender, drain in a colander. In the same pot, heat the tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Saute the sausage slices for about 5 minutes, or until they are browned. Add the pasta to the pot, and then add the cheese, tomatoes, and spinach. Stir until combined, and the cheese is melted. Salt and pepper to taste. Top with Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!
“I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself than be crowded on a velvet cushion.” –Henry David Thoreau
There is something so beautiful, yet so humble about pumpkins. They are all unique in size and shape, and their deep orange color is energizing and appealing. They are inexpensive and at least around here, they are overflowingly plentiful. I drive by a big field full of ripe pumpkins almost every day. As the grass and trees fade to shades of browns and grays, the pumpkins glow bright orange in comparison. I know there are a lot of pumpkin recipes floating around right now, but it’s pumpkin season. So I am going to add this pumpkin bread recipe to the pumpkin conversation. What makes this recipe stand out to me is there is no oil or butter in it. The bread is incredibly moist, but the moistness comes from the applesauce and pumpkin puree. I am always on the lookout for appealing cookbooks to explore and new recipes to try. I checked out a really great book from our tiny but wonderful local library, called Beyond the Mediterranean Diet: European Secrets of the Super-Healthy by Layne Lieberman. This book was published in 2013 and is full of inspiring advice on living a high-quality lifestyle, and it has recipes to try as well (and pretty photos–I really like a book about food to have appealing photos). The recipe for pumpkin bread below comes from this book. I found this bread to be truly both enjoyable and healthy, with the pumpkin seeds on top being a fun addition. My sweet son and his good friend came home ravenous from school yesterday, and they pounced on this pumpkin bread immediately. They both gave it a thumbs-up, and decided it tasted like pumpkin pie without the crust. A pretty sweet way to sneak in a vegetable and a fruit.
Pumpkin Spice Quick Bread
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 4 ounces (1/2 cup) unsweetened applesauce
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 cups pumpkin puree (canned or fresh–I used a 14 ounce can)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (optional)
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and spices. In a separate large bowl, whisk together applesauce, eggs, pumpkin puree and vanilla. Slowly fold the wet ingredients into the dry ones; combine, but don’t over mix.
Lightly grease a 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan (or a shallow 8-inch baking pan) with cooking spray. Pour the batter into the baking dish and sprinkle with optional pumpkin seeds if desired. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, checking for doneness. (Bread is done when the top begins to crack and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.) Let cool for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen. Enjoy!