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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an end to the summer season

The end of the summer means a lot of different things to me but right now I’m thinking about my garden. My summer crop is growing crazy still because I planted everything late but I’m already supposed to have my winter crop in! I don’t think it matters much as long as I get it in soon, like next weekend soon.

I learned a ton from my first summer season. Even will all the mistakes learning experiences, I had a pretty great crop. I’m hoping that means my winter garden will be just as good if not better!

If you haven’t read any of the garden posts yet, here a recap. -> I started off with most of my plants in the greenhouse where they struggled from the lack of light. I then moved the dying plants to a spot on the side of my house. I knew they still wouldn’t get the 8 hours or more of sun that they needed but I was hopeful!  And finally when I realized they weren’t dying (!), I spiffed up the outdoor garden with supports, mulch, and a drip system.

With all that progress, I got a lot in return.

I have 5 tomatoes plants which have given me well over 100 little tomatoes and counting. At one point I got over 50 in one week! I’ve used this recipe three times now. I’ve even experimented! I love a sweet sauce so I skipped the garlic, added two green peppers from the garden, and two tablespoons of sugar. It’s so good!

A couple days ago I found a behemoth. Look at this giant zucchini! You would have thought I won the lottery by the way I was dancing around with my ‘trophy’.

I’d only seen one other rotted zucchini before this one so I didn’t think I’d be getting anything edible. I was collecting tomatoes for sauce when I spotted it.

I’ve heard that they can get too tough and ‘seedy’ when they get too big but I sliced up half of it and made zucchini crisps. Cheesy and delicious.

With all this great crop, I still have some issues that I need to figure out. My peppers have a bug problem. I’ve been able to rescue some but the plants look pretty sad. I haven’t done anything to prevent bugs so I need to do a little research for my winter crop.

You can see in the photo below that some of the leaves are eaten away. Meh, I don’t like bugs!

I also still have that lack of sunlight problem. Look at what this tomato plant did! It grew up and over the fence all the way to the ground on the other side looking for sun. Poor thing.

I know the winter vegetables don’t need as much sunlight so hopefully it won’t be a problem this time around.

As you can see from the photos above and below even though they’re still producing, the tomato and bean plants are ready to go. I was hesitant a month ago to rip them up because they were still going strong but now that they’re a bit weathered so I know it’s time for new, winter vegetables.

This coming weekend I’m hoping to add in some broccoli, cauliflower, and leafy greens.

Tending to my garden is so fun to me. I’m learning a lot which I love and I get food in return! Such a great hobby. I’m excited to try new recipes with the crop too! I’m thinking soup and more soup. 🙂

What are you growing in your winter garden?

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.

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. 🙂

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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?

garden upgrade

It’s been about a month since my last garden update. I’m learning as I go so in the past month I’ve made some upgrades and conclusions about my two growing spaces. For any newbie gardeners out there, I thought you might enjoy some tips!

Vegetables like consistency in watering. They like the soil to stay moist all of the time.

The the first week or so that I planted my outdoor garden, I found it difficult to regulate how much water they needed and when. I had trouble with over watering in my greenhouse and was scared I’d hurt these new plants too.

As luck would have it, I ran into a display at Lowe’s for a drip system that looked perfect for my problem. It has a timer that I’ve set to 15 minutes in the morning and 15 at night. Lately during these super hot days, I’ve also turned it on at lunch time to combat the major wilting.

The good thing is that the little drippers are direct (as you can see in the photo above) so you know the plant is getting the water. This is unlike watering with a hose where the plant is getting some water but the weeds around it are also getting a ton! I had a LOT of weeds before I put the system in.

The next thing I realized that I needed were some tomato cages. The bamboo pools weren’t tall or strong enough to hold up my flourishing plants. A couple times I came home to a plant bent over a touching the ground. I was like an ER doctor in a life-threatening situation in the way that I moved to jury-rig a taller pole! I saved them both times, thank goodness.

After that, I got the cages and carefully inserted them into the ground. Once the tomatoes start growing I’ll be able to rest the limbs on the levels of the cage so we don’t have anymore close calls.

My biggest plant which happens to be one of the guys that fell over, needed some more stem support so I used twist ties to help it stand a little better. I’ll readjust the ties as the plant keeps growing.

Roary was being a good girl that day so she got to hang out with me outside the fenced-in backyard. This normally doesn’t happen because if a squirrel or a scent is near by she can’t help but bolt. She decided that it was way too hot to stay next to me so she found the only shaded spot and plopped down in the sea of ivy. She’s a prissy lady who doesn’t even like to put her bare bottom on tile floor (only carpet), so this was really funny to us. 🙂 So hardcore like her hound dog sister nowadays.

The last upgrade I did was cover the drip system and surrounding soil in mulch.

I’ve heard that this will help keep the moisture in as well stop the weeds from growing. I don’t know about that though, those weeks are ruthless!

Oh! You can see in the photo about how I rigged up the taller poles, ha.

This is a picture of one of the very, very tall tomato plants in the greenhouse. The LED light has helped their growth but I think it came along a little too late. Because they spent most of their growth searching for the sun, they’ve grown too tall and thin. They are flowering but even the biggest tomato cages are too short for them.

Recently, a landscaper confirmed that we have to take a couple dying trees down in our backyard so I might try again next year with the greenhouse or expand my outdoor garden. For now, I’m going to try my best to keep the greenhouse plants going and see what happens.

My conclusion is that the outdoors plants are doing much better! I was afraid that they wouldn’t get enough sun but obviously they’re doing better than the ones indoors.

Gardening is so fun!

How’s your garden growing? Do you have a link to any photos? I’d love to see!

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!

homemade compost bin

Yesterday I made a compost bin. It took me like 5 seconds (equivalent to about 25 minutes in a non-exaggerator’s world). I can’t even get over how easy it was.

I searched the internet and found this video from About.com that I decided to copy.

I bought a new no-wheels trashcan from Lowe’s but if you have an old one that you can use for the project, it’d keep your cost down to zilch. Make sure it has a lid that works though! You’ll need it.

The photo above shows my supplies: trash can, drill, green and brown matter. I found this article that explains what the green and brown matter is for and how composting works if you’re curious.

Begin by drilling lots of holes all around the side of the can. The holes are necessary because the microbes that break down the matter need air to survive. It also reduces the smell among other things. I don’t know what size the drill bit was but it looked to be about 1/2 inch in diameter. It seems like a good size to help the air circulate.

Make sure you do the drilling on your driveway or a back porch (not on grass like me) so that it’s easy to sweep up the debris. I spent a good amount of time picking up these little plastic scraps. They were everywhere!

Here’s the bin in all it’s holey goodness. I just eyeballed the spacing by the way. No need to make it perfect.

After that, in went a layer of brown matter. Be sure to tear the paper products into small pieces, it’ll help them decompose quicker.

Orange Green Matter.

And another layer of brown matter in the form of leaves.

If the matter doesn’t stay moist the microbes that break down the material can’t survive so if you live in a super dry state, you might need to water your mixture about once a week. I probably won’t be watering again because I live in the humid South but I didn’t want you to miss a step!

Next, cover the can with your lid. Make sure it’s secure. You don’t want any critters getting into your ‘food’ and also when you roll the thing, you don’t want smelly compost everywhere.

One of the reasons to use a trash can is so that you can tip it over and mix the compost by rolling it about once a week. This will help speed up the process a ton. I’ve read in a couple places that in anywhere from 4 weeks to three months you’ll have fresh compost ready and waiting.

If you want to reduce a little carbon footprint, I’d say this is the way to do it. You’ll take out the garbage less, your trash can in the kitchen won’t stink to high heaven like it sometimes does and in a couple months you’ll get FREE compost to help your garden grow. You may not be a hippie who wants to save the earth but those are some awesome reasons to start a compost pile.

Do you have any green habits or projects? Feel free to share!

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On another note. The Grow Light that I mentioned in this post has come in! It looks like a crazy UFO but all the plants in the greenhouse have really perked up. The big test will be how much fruit everything produces. I’ll keep you posted!