Stuffing squashes!

For over a week now, I’ve been seriously considering making a stuffed acorn squash. I bought the squash last weekend at Trader Joe’s and it’s been staring at me every day since, taunting me to find the perfect recipe with which to honor it.

Now, you should know this about me: my love of squash combined with my culinary knowledge of squash has, unfortunately, not led me to actually use acorn squash in any kind of cooking endeavor. Of course, I have eaten acorn squash. I mean, I’m sure I have. I can’t say it was a staple in my household, but I just ate it and it wasn’t a brand new experience, so I must’ve eaten it at some point in my life. Right? That’s logical.

Getting back to my story, this idea for a stuffed acorn squash originated from a formerly vegetarian friend who was making dinner for a friend of hers: acorn squashed stuffed with various delicious-sounding things I don’t remember. I think there was quinoa, and there might’ve been cranberries. I only remember being jealous that I wasn’t the friend she’d invited to her house, and then being hungry.

Tonight was the night. Tonight was the night I would make the much-pondered stuffed acorn squash. There would be forbidden rice, there would be cous cous, there would be caramelized onions, there would be a sauteed portobello mushroom… there would be kale, just for some green. It would be pretty and delicious.

Stuffed Acorn Squash with Forbidden Rice and Cous Cous

Ingredients

4 acorn squash, cut in half and seeded
olive oil (enough for lightly coating the squash and sauteing)
2 cups cooked cous cous
2 cups cooked forbidden rice
4 garlic cloves
2 yellow or white onions, thinly sliced
2 portobello mushrooms, sliced
a handful of kale (1-2 cups raw)
1-2 tbsp dried thyme
salt and pepper
1-2 tbsp panko or other breadcrumbs (optional)
1 tbsp Earth Balance (optional; for the breadcrumbs)

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Cut a small amount of the bottom of each halved squash so the halves stand level. Prepare a baking pan with aluminum foil and brush the inside of each halved acorn squash with olive oil; place the squash on the foiled pan. In the preheated oven, bake for 45 minutes.

2. While the squash is cooking, saute the garlic and onion slices in olive oil on medium-low heat until they’re limp and start to yellow, then add the mushroom slices and the thyme. Brown the mushrooms, then add the kale and saute for another 3 minutes or until it’s wilted. Remove from heat and stir in the cous cous and forbidden rice. Set aside until the squash is done.

3. Prepare the breadcrumb topping. Mix the Earth Balance with the panko; set aside.

4. Once the squash is done, remove from the oven (don’t turn the oven off yet – you’re not really done). Scoop the cous cous-rice mixture evenly into each squash, then top with the panko. Put the assembled squash back in the oven and bake for another 25 minutes.

5. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes.

I gobbled it up with some yummy brussels sprouts. Hard to go wrong with brussels sprouts, as far as I’m concerned.

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Roasted fennel, chickpeas, peppers and grapes.

I won’t copy and paste the recipe, because I did follow it exactly, but I wanted to share with anyone who may be reading that I had a wonderful meal tonight: roasted fennel, chickpeas, peppers and grapes, with a side of sauteed kale and another side of mashed sweet potatoes. I also fed my friend Jen and introduced her to The West Wing, a show to which I am quickly becoming addicted.

Anyway, this was the food:

Who knew roasted grapes could be so delicious? You need to try it. I scoured the vast interwebs this afternoon not at all during work hours in search of a recipe that utilized the weird fruits and veggies I picked up in my fanatical grocery shopping endeavors this weekend, and this recipe ended up being one of my best decisions this week.

After that wholesome meal, I succumbed to an unhealthy craving and made myself a bowl of vegan and gluten free cookie dough and relatively harmless dark chocolate (cocoa powder + boiling water + stevia) and frozen raspberries. Then I baked some cookies. Now I am singing along to my current favorite song, Until It’s Gone by Monica. This song is so ’90s – I love it.

Crêpes sucrées with chocolate, vanilla yogurt and berries.

As a self-proclaimed healthy foodie, I never would’ve dreamed that I could possibly eat crêpes for breakfast. Or for any meal, for that matter. Crêpes are made of flour and butter and egg. Flour and butter are no-nos in my world.

However, I recently stumbled across this recipe for cottage cheese pancakes, and it gave me an idea. The ingredients, all Perricone-friendly, could be combined in a similar fashion to form what a few reviewers described as “crêpe-like pancakes.” Since I no longer keep old-fashioned oatmeal handy (I prefer steel-cut), I used the aforementioned “pancake” recipe as a starting point rather than a strict guideline to construct this morning’s delicious and decadent breakfast.

Crêpes Sucrées with Chocolate, Vanilla Yogurt and Berries

Ingredients

For the crêpe
1 egg
1 egg white
1/4 cup lowfat (2%) cottage cheese
8-10 packets stevia
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tbsp cornstarch

For the chocolate spread
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Ghirardelli)
8 packets stevia
1/4 cup water
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the vanilla yogurt
2 tbsp lowfat plain yogurt (I used Yami 1%)
5 packets stevia
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the filling
1/2-1 cup berries (I used 1/2 cup sliced strawberries, 1/2 cup raspberries)

Directions

1. Prepare the toppings. Boil the 1/4 cup water (1 1/2 minutes in the microwave should do it) and quickly stir in the cocoa powder and stevia in the bowl until it thickens, then adding the 1 tsp vanilla extract. You may need to use more cocoa powder if it’s too watery. Set aside.

2. In another bowl, combine the yogurt, stevia and 2 tsp vanilla extract. Set aside.

3. Chop the berries and set aside.

4. Make the crêpe. In a blender, combine the eggs, stevia, cottage cheese, 2 tsp vanilla extract, and cornstarch. Blend on low until the mixture’s consistency is smooth (like pancake batter). Spray a 12-inch skillet with olive oil cooking spray and heat on a medium setting for about a minute. Pour the batter into the skillet, using a rubber spatula to scrape the edges of the blender. Let batter sit, swirling after about a minute so it cooks evenly. When the batter is bubbling and the crêpe is set (slide the rubber spatula under it to make sure it won’t break), carefully but confidently flip the crêpe. After about 30 seconds, transfer the crêpe to a plate. Both sides should be a little brown.

5. Assemble the crêpe. Once it’s cooled a bit, spread the chocolate as evenly as possible over the crêpe (it was not that easy for me to spread, so don’t worry if it puts up a fight). Next spread the yogurt, then the berries or any other toppings you’re using.

6. Fold the crêpe as shown.

This breakfast absolutely made my morning. As the French would say, bon appétit!

Three-Berry Pie with Olive Oil Shortbread Crust.

I slept in until 11 this morning, something I haven’t done in what seems like a very long time. I had breakfast at noon, then I did something else I hadn’t done in a long time – I sat down and wrote a song, start to finish. I used to do that all the time (Exhibit A), but I haven’t been feeling creative/inspired/what-have-you enough to sit down and write. Everything comes out sounding wrong. But I’m really enjoying this project. Maybe after I get back to my happy weight I’ll even get professional photos taken for my album art. That would be a nice reward, right?

So anyway. (Nice segue, wasn’t it?) Yesterday, one of my employees had a birthday. I’d decided about a month ago that I would make it a tradition to bring in treats for each of their birthdays – it’s practical, because there are only four of them, and it allows me to get my baking fix. For yesterday’s celebration, I baked this berry pie. It started out as olive oil shortbread cookies, but the dough were entirely too crumbly despite my best efforts to keep it together, so I molded it to a pie dish and threw some berries in there. The experiment was a definite success.

Three-Berry Pie with Olive Oil Shortbread Crust

Ingredients:

For the crust
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups granulated Splenda
3 cups rice flour
1 tsp almond extract
2 tsp vanilla extract

For the filling
4 cups berries (I used strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries)
1/2 cup granulated Splenda
3 tablespoons cornstarch

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Lightly oil a pie pan; set aside.
2. Make the crust: Mix the olive oil, 1 1/2 cups Splenda and rice flour in a large mixing bowl. Gradually mix in the almond and vanilla extracts. Once ingredients are thoroughly mixed, place dough in the pie pan and spread evenly along the bottom and the sides.
3. Make the filling: Mix the berries, 1/2 cup Splenda and cornstarch in a medium bowl. Evenly pour into crust.
4. Bake pie for 30 minutes, or until crust is golden. Remove from oven and crush berries, then let cool before consuming. I recommend refrigerating the pie – covered – overnight to allow the filling to set.

Healthy Pesto Pasta with Chicken, Roasted Broccolini & Cherry Tomatoes.

I’m not a big pasta person. I went through a pasta phase in college, but that’s only because it’s so easy and inexpensive, and I was always lazy about my food. Sometimes I’d just eat Wheat Thins for dinner. Ironically, they don’t make you so thin, especially if you eat the whole box.

Anyway, I rarely get pasta cravings, which makes it really easy to stay gluten-free. I’ve found that, when I am in the mood for noodles, shirataki noodles work really well to quell the cravings. After all, pasta is just a vehicle for other food.

I got broccolini from the grocery store this weekend and perused the mighty interwebs for a recipe the other night. Conveniently enough, I also currently have a surplus of cherry tomatoes, due to a sale at Whole Foods. So I roasted some broccolini and cherry tomatoes in olive oil, garlic and red pepper, loosely based on this recipe (except it was at 450˚F for 12 minutes). And tonight, I wanted pasta, so I just used the leftovers from that and the remaining 4 ounces of Serenada chicken from Trader Joe’s. The result? Delicious.

Healthy Pesto Pasta with Chicken, Roasted Broccolini & Cherry Tomatoes

Ingredients:

1/2 lb. broccolini
4 cherry tomatoes
olive oil
1 clove garlic, sliced
pinch of crushed red pepper
salt and pepper

2 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 8-ounce package shirataki noodles
4 ounces Trader Joe’s Serenada chicken, cooked and diced
1 tablespoon basil pesto

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 450˚F and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Toss the broccolini and cherry tomatoes in olive oil (enough to coat the veggies),  garlic, red pepper, and salt and pepper. Spread mixture on the baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes.

2. Follow the directions to parboil or microwave the shirataki noodles. If the noodles lack preparation instructions, drain the noodles, rinse under cold water, and microwave for 1 minute. Set aside.

3. To prepare the breadcrumbs, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a frying pan. Add the panko to the olive oil and brown, stirring occasionally. Move to a small bowl and set aside.

4. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the pan and heat. Add the noodles, chicken, and broccolini and cherry tomatoes to the pan, stirring to combine. Saute until heated through, about 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and mix in the pesto until combined.

5. Top with breadcrumbs and serve!

Bad foodie, very bad.

Or maybe I’ve been a good foodie and a bad healthy foodie. Hmm. Either way, I’ve been really enthusiastic about all food-related pursuits lately… a little too enthusiastic, if you catch my drift. I’ve been back on Perricone for the past week, and while I’ve been (mostly) obedient, I went a little overboard once or twice, and worst of all, I haven’t been working out. So, naturally, I was beginning to get pretty frustrated when I wasn’t seeing the results I wanted to see.

No, these pelmeni were not gluten free. And yes, they were delicious.

So, for my August resolution, I will 1) stick to Perricone for as long as I can stand, and 2) work out every day, even if it’s only for 15 minutes. I got this app called MapMyWalk and walked a total of 5.87 miles today. I’m going to get back into this walking thing. I feel so much better about life when I’m exercising.

And, because this is a foodie blog, I feel I must share a photo of tonight’s scrumptious and healthy dinner:

4 oz. coconut breaded chicken fingers (from Whole Foods); pesto dipping sauce; grilled vegetable kabob (from Trader Joe’s); romaine salad with roma tomato, red onion, fresh basil and parmesan cheese, dressed with olive oil-balsamic vinaigrette.

As you probably figured out, I used my new grill for the veggies. It was only the second time I’ve used it, but I’m getting markedly less nervous about the smoke. I really enjoy cooking on this grill. It cooks things fast and it smells like summer.

I’m going to be better about posting, I swear. I feel like it’s the only thing that keeps me honest about what I’m eating, aside from logging everything (and that takes a lot more time).

Brussels sprouts, prosciutto and goat cheese gluten-free pizza.

I made this last night, after doing some serious research on the best way to make a pizza which included brussels sprouts. I found one similar to what I wanted to do – brussels sprouts, pancetta (a fattier but no less delicious version of prosciutto), and parmesan. Except I was out of parmesan, and goat cheese pizzas hold a special place in my heart, so there was that. Plus, I found an extra, unopened log of goat cheese in my refrigerator this weekend – score! – so I should be stocked on goat cheese for the week.

So when I headed up to Safeway yesterday to gather some of the groceries I’d neglected to obtain at Uwajimaya on Saturday, I picked up my favorite ready-made gluten-free crust:

And then I assembled my ingredients…

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp basil pesto
  • 1/4 cup low fat (2%) shredded mozzarella
  • 1 ounce goat cheese
  • 4 brussels sprouts, ends discarded and leaves separated
  • 1 ounce prosciutto
  • red pepper flakes (to taste)
  • bacon bits (to taste)

I blended the olive oil, garlic, and pesto in a little bowl and spread most of it over the crust (you’re supposed to do this with olive oil alone, according to the crust’s package, but I always jazz it up a bit). Then layer (in this order) most of the mozzarella, prosciutto, brussels sprouts and goat cheese over the crust. Sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella over the toppings, then sprinkle the red pepper flakes and bacon bits on top. This is what mine looked like, pre-baking:

And then post-baking, shortly before it was devoured:

For the record, it was intended to be a personal-sized pizza. Of course, I shouldn’t have eaten it all, especially considering I also had a salad. But… it was too delicious. It had to be destroyed.