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.

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!

    green bean salad

    I am committed to the blog and specifically my lovely readers. You want proof?

    This is my current view.

    Our power is out due to a crazy storm yesterday afternoon. Just a couple weeks ago I had mentioned to someone that I had never seen hail. Well I have now and it was terrifying! Especially in a little car with 50 mph winds.

    Anyways, one of the Vets at my work offered to lend me her generator so Al picked it up after work. I’m using it to just keep the fridge cold… and to blog. 🙂

    ———-

    Today I have the final veggie side of our favorite Ellie Krieger trifecta (you can find the other two dishes here and here). This last one is a Green Bean Salad. It’s not any old salad though, it’s a tasty combination of crunch and tang.

    I started off with yet another normally green but yellow veggie from the farmer’s market. These green beans might look like they had been sitting in my fridge for two months but they were fresh, I promise!

    To speed up the already short cooking/prepping time, I steamed my green beans in the microwave. I put them in a bowl with a lid and a tablespoon of water, then microwaved them for 5 minutes. They always come out perfectly cooked – crispy not mushy.

    After that, I had the dish done in a little over five minutes.

    I prepped the onions and walnuts. The walnuts get toasted <- this is my favorite part. It really brings out the flavor of the nut. Then mixed up the mustard dressing which got poured over the beans, onions, and walnuts. Added a little parsley and I was done.

    The side is meant to be cold, hence the word ‘salad’ in the title but we often eat it as soon as it’s complete so everything is still warm. We like it either way though!

    This would make a great BBQ dish to bring to a summer party. But I’d suggest using green green beans to make the dish look a little more appetizing!

    A super faster recipe with tons of flavor and crunch. What more could you want?! Mmm mmm good.

    What dish to you like to take to parties?

    zucchini parmesan crisps

    We’ve got three favorite vegetable sides at this house. An Ellie Krieger trifecta, if you will. I already showed you the Cucumber Salad which is great but today I’ve got my most favorite veggie side EVER to show you. This was my go-to dish during Al’s deployment last year. I ate it once a week (or more) for six months and I’m not tired of it. I regularly get tired of food so the fact that I can still scarf it is amazing.

    Okay, enough hype. The recipe is called Zucchini Parmesan Crisps and it’s another super simple yet delicious creation.

    I started off with yellow zucchini which I didn’t know existed until we picked up our CSA box last week.

    Every time I ate a piece I kept expecting it to taste like yellow squash because of the color! It’s so fun to be surprised by what we get each week.

    The ‘breading’ is easy. Nowadays I just eyeball the measurements. I can’t remember how to cook any other recipes that I make except for this one. Must’ve been that frequency during the deployment.

    You start with the bread crumbs. I used store-bought stuff this time but you can easily make your own. Whole wheat would be a good idea.

    I use this shredded parmesan for the recipe but grating the cheese (like Ellie suggests) would be a lot better. The kind I use doesn’t stick to the zucchini as well but it’s still just as tasty!

    Add the salt and pepper then stir.

    Coat each an every inch of the olive oiled zucchini and then bake them for a while.

    They come out crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside like a perfectly bake chocolate chip cookie… but totally not. 🙂

    Do you see that crunchy bottom of the crisps on the spatula? That, my friend, is money. I’m getting hungry just looking at these pictures even though I’ve already eaten.

    Please tell me you’ll make these soon! Your taste buds will thank me.

    What’s your favorite vegetable side dish? Do you have an oldie but goodie?

    P.S. Look out for our final favorite next week!

    asian stir-fry with swiss chard & green onion

    Just a short time ago, I had no idea how to cook greens. The only greens I ate were in the form of salad. For me, salads get old quick even with different toppings so learning how to cook them was awesome.

    Al and I went to Lauren’s house this past weekend where she made a VERY tasty kale stir-fry. She didn’t even use a recipe! I bow down to people like that.

    I asked her lots of questions that night so that I’d be able to attempt my own soon. Today was that day and I have to say it turned out quite well!

    Of course I winged it and added in some extra items as always. I skipped the carrots in the picture above but I did include swiss chard, green onions, garlic, peas, and ginger.

    We now have a box from Walnut Hill Farms so each week we head to the Lakeside Farmer’s Market and they fill ‘er up with whatever vegetables or fruit they have. Needless to say we have A TON of vegetables to use which is why I tried to put so much into the stir-fry. I don’t want anything to go bad! It’s one of my new year’s resolutions after all.

    The prep took a while since I had so much to chop. I cut up all the green onions I had and froze a good amount. I figure I can toss them into more stir-fry dishes down the road.

    I got my big wok off our cool peg board to fit everything.

    Then started a swiss chard assembly line. Lauren mentioned that I should cook the stems before the leaves since they take longer. Great tip!

    I’ve had some candied ginger in my pantry for a long time now so I chopped it up and added it into the mix.

    Per Lauren’s instructions, in vegetable oil I cooked the stems and green onions first then added the garlic, ginger, and finally the swiss chard. Lastly, I added rice vinegar and soy sauce to braise it all for a while.

    I was concerned in the beginning that not everything would fit in the pot but as you can see, it cooked down a lot!

    This dish was great – lots of healthy vegetables and flavor. It’s definitely not as tasty as Laruen’s version but I figure with time I’ll get out the kinks! I think it still needs a little heat but the ginger did add a nice little spice to the soy sauce flavoring. It was like sushi in a bowl. 🙂

    I hope to add this into our weekly dinner rotation. Now I just need all the extra asian sauces to top it off! YUM.

    What’s your favorite greens dish?

    yummy: dinner salad

    It’s tough for my husband and I to stay on track with healthy eating during the week. Sometimes life gets in the way and we’re just too tired to cook. Lately, I’ve been turning to super easy salads to get in some veggies when we’re desperate and debating on ordering pizza.

    The excuse that I use frequently ‘I’m too tired to cook’ isn’t good enough when making a salad for dinner because it doesn’t take much effort at all! It helps with the energy you’re lacking and makes you feel much better than if you were to order out.

    Pretty much I’m writing this post to convince myself that I should eat more salads for dinner. 🙂

    Here’s a little salad I made last week in the blink of an eye.

    I started out with some baby spinach.

    Then a little red pepper.

    Some red onions for spice.

    Carrots.

    Edamame for protein.

    A then some salad dressing of choice! With the edamame I’d think a sesame or ginger dressing would be tasty but I went with what we had which was caesar.

    We ate the salad with a side of protein banana bread and that’s it! A delicious, super healthy meal in under 10 minutes.

    Use whatever veggies and/or fruit you have on hand! Done.

    What’s your go-to healthy meal? Do you have a weekly meal that you turn to?

    P.S. My sister is posting next! Look out for it. 🙂