pecan and wild rice-stuffed squash

This dish might have the longest cooking time out of all the recipes I’ve posted on this blog. I only post my absolute favorites so that just shows you how marvelous it is! Relative to a lot of recipes out there, it’s still super quick. There’s just a good amount of time in the oven so you have to find other things to do  like laundry, clean… or watch TV and read blogs like I did. 🙂

The recipe comes from the same cookbook that I used for the Turmeric Brown Rice Con Pollo.

Since I don’t think the recipe is online, I went ahead and typed it up for you.

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Pecan and Wild Rice-Stuffed Squash

2 small acorn squash (I used one giant one instead)
1/2 cup wild rice
1 1/2 cups water
3 tablespoons fresh sage
1/2 cup fresh parsley
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 stalks celery, minced
1/2 large onion, chopped (1 cup)
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup pecan halves

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Oil 2 baking sheets. Cut each squashes in half from the stem to the tip. Scoop out the seeds and place cut-side down on the baking sheets. Bake from 20 to 30 minutes, or until easily pierced with a paring knife. Let cool. Reduce the oven heat to 375 degrees.

In a medium saucepan, cook the wild rice in the water, simmering until it is tender and starting to split. If there is any excess water, drain the rice in a strainer. Finely chop the sage and parsley. In a small saute pan, heat the olive oil and saute the celery, onion, and sage over medium heat until just softened. Stir in the parsley, marjoram, pepper, nutmeg, and salt, and take the pan off the heat.

When the squash halves are cool, use a spoon to scoop out the flesh, leaving a bit behind to keep the skins from tearing. In a large bowl, mash the flesh coarsely and reserve. Select 16 intact pecan halves for garnish, then use a food processor to grind the remaining pecans to powder (I just finely chop them). Add the ground pecans, the sauteed mixture, and the wild rice to the squash in the bowl and mix thoroughly. Stuff the mixture into the squash shells and top with the reserved pecan halves. Place in a casserole or baking dish large enough to hold all of the squash halves. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the tops feel firm to the touch.

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Fresh sage! I don’t have any herbs in my garden but I do have a couple in pots on the patio. I most often sub dried for fresh when a recipe calls for it (use half of the fresh amount) but this time I had something on hand!

While prepping my ingredients I got a little sidetracked -> I saw this idea on YoungHouseLove a while back. If you have a party where crudités are involved, you could use these celery flowers to decorate the plate!

Along with the blog reading and TV watching, when the squash is initially roasted I was able to get my rice cooked and saute mixture ready.

Every time my dad uses the toaster oven he removes whatever he has cooked with his bare hands. It doesn’t matter if he yells or makes pain noises every time, he does this without fail. I do the same thing and have also added not waiting until hot squash cools before hollowing it out. This acorn squash didn’t disappoint. It had me yelling up a storm.

My dad went to Cornell so that must make me a genius too. Please don’t try to be smarties like us and have patience!

I love the presentation of this dish! You could totally wow some friends with your celery flowers and squash bowls. 🙂

There’s so much flavor in this recipe. The spicy and nutty flavors are a great contrast to the sweet meat of the acorn squash. There’s lots of crunch and chewiness in there too. Mmm mmm good.

As soon as the temps in your State start to drop, you have to make this! It’s got great fall ingredients, a comfort food feel, and it’s healthy to boot!

Are you about to go pumpkin/squash recipe crazy? I sure am.

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crispy blackened tofu

I know. That title may sound scary to some of you. Tofu is mushy, slimy, and gross. Or is it?

Meat and I are still on the rocks so I wanted to attempt a new tofu recipe. The first time I tried to cook it it turned out too soggy, the second time was pretty good, and this third time was freakin’ spectacular thanks to Emily over at the Daily Garnish.

To start out I took a block of extra firm tofu, covered it in paper towels, and then stacked a couple of books on top to press out the water. The longer you let it sit, the less mushy it’ll be. I started mine at about noon and cooked the dish at 5.

You can’t see the tofu in this photo but it’s under the cookie sheet! To prevent a soaked countertop, I placed the tofu on top of my cutting board that has a little moat around the edge so that it’d collect any excess water.

Next, I lost my mind for a bit and couldn’t understand how to cut the tofu block properly per Emily’s instructions. This is why I have multiple slabs instead of a couple thin ‘steaks’. Course I got the concept after I did my cutting. Classic.

Then I marinated the pieces in a little bit of soy sauce.

There are lots of spices to this dish but it’s a snap to put together!

Did I mention that Al, my husband, doesn’t enjoy change and/or funky textures in food? I’ve only forced him to eat tofu one other time (the second ‘pretty good’ time I made it) and he didn’t like it. Even with the cards stacked against me I still had hope. I thought, there’s no way he can’t like this! It’s too good! as I shoved another crispy piece in my mouth when I was done.

Whenever I have to make a rub or a coating for a recipe I always end up with extra stuff that I have to throw away. With this recipe, I had absolutely none! The perfect amount of spices for the tofu. A pleasant surprise.

The spices create a great outing coating of what’d I’d call Spicy Asian BBQ. So tasty. You could totally use this as a rub on chicken or beef if you’d like. Or shrimp! That’d be super good. But that’s not really the point, the point is that it’s amazing on tofu, a meat alternative!

Just look at that color.

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Crispy Blackened Tofu
(source)

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients (2 servings)

    For the Tofu

    • 1 block firm or extra-firm tofu (drained and pressed)
    • 2 tablespoons soy sauce or Bragg’s liquid aminos
    • 1 tablespoon sesame oil (or other cooking oil)

    For the Spice Blend

    • 2 teaspoons paprika
    • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
    • 1 teaspoon corn starch
    • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 1 teaspoon onion powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
    • 1/4 teaspoon thyme
    • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

    Instructions

    • Start by pressing a block of tofu to drain out the excess water.
    • While the tofu drains, go ahead and make your spice mix. Add all spices to a shallow bowl, and stir to thoroughly combine.
    • Once the tofu has drained, slice the block into four even rectangles – once through the width, and then cutting in half through the top (did that make sense?).
    • Place tofu in a shallow dish and add soy sauce or liquid aminos – it doesn’t need to be much. Just enough to let it soak into the bottom a bit. After a few minutes, flip each piece to coat the other side.
    • In a saute pan, heat sesame oil (or other oil of your choice) over medium high heat – you want your pan to really get hot! I prefer to use my non-stick pans for this, but you can try it in stainless as well.
    • Take each piece of tofu and press it into the spice blend, ensuring to coat the whole bottom in a thick crust of spice. Flip it over and repeat on the other side.
    • Then carefully place each piece into the hot pan – it should sizzle and pop, and you’ll see immediate color forming around the base of the tofu.
    • Add all four pieces to the pan and continue to cook over medium high heat. After only a minute or two, the bottom should be pretty dark in color – flip to the other side!
    • Cook for another minute or two on the other side, until both are crispy and blackened to perfection.
    • Slice and serve on a bed of rice with a side of roasted greens!

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    I served it over brown rice, split peas, tomatoes, and a little soy sauce. Super random but we needed to use up the tomatoes from the garden and I wanted more veggies so I added the peas. It worked out really well!

    Al even admitted that the dish was ‘pretty good’. He said that he wouldn’t eat the tofu alone (he’s crazy) but he’d eat it like I served it. I’ll take what I can get! Thank you Emily for your recipe! I’m so glad it was successful.

    I don’t care if you think you hate tofu. You’ve got to make this dish!

    Do you eat tofu? How to do prepare it?

    penne with homemade marinara sauce

    Here goes nothin’.

    This is what I thought to myself when I started cooking on Monday.  If Chef Sam and Lauren can wing it, so can I!  I was super inspired by them after this past weekend.

    I didn’t really ‘wing’ it though, I just attempted something I’ve never done before.  This is BIG for me since I’ve been sticking to leftovers and the same simple recipes for over a month.

    So listen to this.

    Instead of buying a jar of pasta sauce… I made my own.  I didn’t buy a can of tomatoes and then add spices, I used fresh tomatoes and made the whole dang thing.  Everything from scratch!

    First I found these instructions and learned how to blanch my tomatoes for the sauce.

    Blanching and braising are words I had heard on the Food Network but never really knew what they were.  This is sad yet true but now I’ve done one! I’m a little proud.

    I had one big tomato leftover from the SOJ Chef Demo and a ton of cherry (?) tomatoes leftover from our CSA box.

    I began the process by slicing an X on the top of each of the tomatoes.  This makes it easier to peel the skin off once they’ve been blanched.

    Then I cooked them in boiling water for about 1 minute.

    After that I immediately removed them from the pot and dumped them into a bowl filled with ice cold water to stop the cooking process.  Does anyone know why you need to stop the cooking?  Just wondering.

    Then I peeled off the skin which took forever but I didn’t mind.  I find cooking to be quite relaxing!  And I know that next time when I use big tomatoes it won’t take me much time at all.

    Once they were all peeled and very slimy, I roughly chopped them into bit size pieces.

    Time to start the sauce.  I found this super simple recipe from Cooking Light.

    I only had basil and garlic left to prep once the tomatoes were done.  I’m a dried herbs kinda gal but this fresh basil really made a difference!

    Hi Roary!

    Everything went into the pot (per the recipe) to cook for 25 minutes.  When it had about 10 minutes left, I cooked up the penne pasta for about 8 minutes.

    After I was done, I ran off to yoga while Al came home to eat the dish by himself.  I came back to a positive review!  Often times he tells me a dish is good when really it’s not that great but this sauce was very tasty.  I added extra garlic and spices because we like it that way so there was a great kick to it.

    So tasty, so healthy, so fresh.

    Do you have a specialty that you make from scratch?

    P.S. If you’re like my mom and don’t like chunky sauce, just use an immersion or regular blender to smooth it out!

    SOJ chef demo

    Good morning!

    This past Saturday I got the chance to assist Chef Sam Baker at the South of the James Market. Lauren, the blogger over at Vegology, gave me the chance to be her substitute that day. Free food and education? Um, yes!

    Chef Sam created four delicious dishes using lots of summery fruits and tomatoes. All the recipes were super quick and easy which I love. I wrote about my adventure over at her blog. Feel free to check it out! -> Guest Post! SOJ Chef Demo 07.28.12

    I hope you have a lovely start to the week! Look out for a new recipe post on Wednesday.

    yummy: homestyle chocolate chip cookies with sea salt

    Sarah Matheny is the author of the blog Peas and Thank You. She has also written a cookbook of the same name. If you want a great laugh along with some healthy recipes, you’ve got to buy her book! Yesterday I read the story that went along with a recipe called ‘Hugh Jass Salad’ (get it?!). I laughed out loud while reading it and then read the whole thing first to my sister and again to my husband. Sarah is hilarious and awesome.

    ———-

    Remember how I like to change up ingredients often (shown here & here)? Well it sure doesn’t work with baking! I knew this but I guess I wanted to live life on the edge Sunday when I attempted Sarah’s Homestyle Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt.

    This lead to a redo batch on Tuesday which was much better and very tasty.

    Since I made so many mistakes on my first batch I thought I’d do a little show and tell! Maybe one of you will learn from my lapse in baking judgement.

    It is necessary to tell you that the first batch was completed by my husband (but overseen by me) with beer in hand. Could it be his fault? Possibly. Shall I pick on him for it? Maybe Another day.

    Error number one:
    We didn’t sift the flour which made the cookies more dense. I also decided to throw it some random cornmeal that I wanted to use up. ?? I think adding the cornmeal was the main reason the taste was off and the cookies were super dry.

    Take two:
    I sifted all the dry ingredients together like I was supposed to do!

    Error number two:
    I didn’t let the butter sit out to bring it to room temperature. I did the whole – let’s just put it in the microwave to make it soft like room temperature. Not the same! The dough was super lumpy and no matter how hard we stirred, the butter wouldn’t mix with the other liquids. This made a huge splattering mess.

    Take two (notice the splatter residue caked on the mixer from the first batch):

    Error number three:
    We didn’t add the dry mixture slowly into the wet mixture. Along with not letting the butter sit out, I think this mistake added to the lumpiness.

    Take two:

    Look how much smoother and more appetizing this second batch looks!

    The results of batch one:

    At least I got a cute Roary pic out of the first batch.

    The results of the yummy second batch:

    The edges look much smoother, they were more moist, and the cookies tasted better overall. They have even been approved by my Mrs. Fields chocolate chip cookie loving husband.

    The cookies disappeared fast. I couldn’t take a picture quick enough.

    Now there’s no link to Sarah’s recipe since it’s from her cookbook so you’ll just have to buy it if you want to make these cookies! I don’t want to give away all her hard work.

    Oh and there’s a literal face in this post since I was told by a certain family member that the faces in this post were too difficult to find. 🙂

    Have you had any silly cooking mistakes or disasters? Do you like to wing it?