Browsing articles in "Entrèe"

Quinoa Stuffed Squash

TAW81574-1Quinoa is a funny sort of grain. First of all, there’s the way it looks. It starts off pretty normal looking, kind of like chopped-up uncooked rice, but as it simmers away in the pot it begins to morph into tiny, semi-transparent ovals that are reminiscent of some sort of insect egg. I realize this description might not be the most appetizing, but I honestly can’t think of a better way to describe it. As it changes from a solid to an opaque the germ separates and leaves behind a thin spiral-like strand that wraps around the grain. The whole thing is very science fictiony, but the result is quite tasty. TAW71505-1Quinoa (by the way its pronounced keen-wah)  is best known for its exceptional nutritional qualities. Its claim to fame seems to be that it is considered a ‘complete protein’. Essentially this means that quinoa is both high in protein and contains all nine of the amino acids that humans need. This is pretty rare to find in a plant and helps explain why, along with corn and potatoes, it was considered one of the three staple foods of the Inca civilization. That is until the 15th and 16th centuries when the Spanish began to conquer, um..I mean colonize, South America and they banished the cultivation of quinoa for a time due to its use in non-Christian religious ceremonies. Luckily these days quinoa cultivation is alive and well in countries such as Peru, Bolivia, and Chile. There is even a farm in the mountains of Colorado that has been growing quinoa since 1987. Check out these links to read more about this fascinating and wildly successful experiment.

The other strange thing about quinoa is that while its often placed in the same category as rice and other grains, it is not actually a grain. Instead it is actually a relative of some leafy green vegetables and is closely related to plants such as beets, spinach, and tumbleweeds? Tumbleweeds!

I could keep feeding you interesting tidbits about this super healthy, non-grain grain all day, but I suppose before you all stop reading and refuse to ever come back here again I should get to the recipe. TAW71467TAW71466
Stuffed squash is really a pretty basic dish. Generally you cook up a mixture of rice and veggies, stuff it in a hollowed out squash, throw it in the oven, and bamm…you have stuffed squash. In this recipe, the biggest variation from what I just outlined above is that the squash is partially cooked beforehand in the microwave (thank you Cooking Light for this excellent idea). This accomplishes two things. First it cuts the baking time down by more than half, and second because the baking time is shorter it allows the grain, or in this case the quinoa, to retain some of its nutty texture instead of turning to mush while it hangs out in the oven for an hour waiting for the squash to cook. For this recipe I used the beautiful Amber Cup squash pictured above. You could use a variety of different squashes in the is dish. Golden Nugget, Acorn, Buttercup, Autumn Cup, Carnival, Turban. Basically any winter squash with a shape that allows you to hollow it out and stuff it will work just fine. TAW71521-1

These are some of the goodies I put in the squash. The original recipe only called for onion, garlic, and sausage, but I decided to throw in some carrots, fresh Italian parsley and a portabella mushroom for extra flavor and texture. This last minute addition was so tasty that I am pretty sure I will be making a vegetarian version with just the portabellas in the near future. If you decide to go this route I would suggest using at least three mushrooms to replace the 8-ounces of sausage. On the subject of sausage, any kind will do but I used Al Fresco brand Chicken Apple sausage with Vermont Maple syrup- wow! That’s good stuff. TAW71549
Here is the squash stuffed and ready to bake- Yummm!TAW71559-1

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Baked Red Cabbage with Apples

I know, I know. I made this grand announcement last week that I was going on a squash filled journey and promised you new and exciting squash recipes – I bet you were hoping for more fun facts too. So what do I do? I go and post a recipe about cabbage. Cabbage isn’t even one of my favorite vegetables. I am often drawn to the cabbage because of its pretty purple leaves, and I love a nice crunchy coleslaw with a tangy vinaigrette, but more often than not I am not sure what to do with this large vegetable that looks oddly like a brain when you slice it open. TAW00917

So when I plucked this singular, perfectly formed head of cabbage out of my garden (yes, we grew just one cabbage this year) I knew I wanted to make something different, and I knew just where to turn for an exceptional recipe. I am lucky enough to own a copy of an amazing book by James Peterson aptly called, Vegetables. It is an amazing resource for all things veggie and the place where I often turn when ITAW00894 am looking for a simple recipe that highlights a particular vegetable, or just some basic information on how best to prepare a vegetable. I knew this recipe was the one as soon as soon as I saw it because it included apples. I’ve always been a sucker for the combo of tangy cabbage with sweet apples and this recipe had one even more irresistible ingredient…bacon. Okay, I know bacon is NOT a part of healthy cooking and for the most part we are a turkey bacon kind of household, but in this recipe a few slices of thick-cut maple smoked bacon is just what the doctor ordered (ha ha). I did make some adjustments to the amount of bacon in this dish though. The original recipe was called “Baked Cabbage with Apples and Bacon” and the addition of bacon in the title gives you a hint to how much bacon was called for- an entire half pound! I just couldn’t do it, delicious or not, I want to live long enough to enjoy more bacony meals so I cut the amount down by more than half. My version includes just 6 slices of bacon, and with eight servings in the entire dish that’s less than one piece per serving. Enough to add that yummy flavor without so much of the guilt. TAW00981

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Butternut Squash & Black Bean Enchiladas

Butternut Squash Enchiladas
I love butternut squash. Actually, I love all squashes. 
It is my humble opinion that winter squash are one of the most versatile, delicious, and easy to prepare vegetables. They are also super simple to grow and come in an amazing array of funky shapes and colors. In fact, I am such a dork about squash that I’ve gathered some some fun tidbits about this special vegetable, um…fruit, for your reading enjoyment.TAW90812-2

TAW90784-1Squash are one of the oldest cultivated crops in the Western hemisphere. They were first gathered and consumed in the area between Mexico and Guatemala around 8000 B.C. Apparently back then only the seeds were eaten though, because the early varieties were bitter and didn’t contain much flesh.

The butternut squash is the new kid on the block having only made its appearance in 1944.

We commonly refer to squash as a vegetable, but it is actually considered a fruit. Like cucumbers and melons they are part of the Cucurita genus.

This stuff is good for you!!! Winter squash is a fantastic source of antioxidants, including Beta Carotene and Alfa Carotene. It is also full of vitamin C (about 1/3 of daily value in a every cup), has anti-inflammatory properties, and contains omega 3 fatty acids. TAW90838


This fall I am setting out on a journey of squash exploration (and I hope you’ll come with me). I plan to hone my squash taming skills with some of the lesser know varieties like Carnival and Gold Nugget. I also will get rough with the beastly Hubbard squash (they say the best way to open this monster is to throw it on the floor). This week though, I thought I would start off slow with one of the most common of the winter squashes, the butternut. The butternut squash has a beautiful pale yellow skin and is shaped like a vase or a bell. Inside the deep-orange flesh has a sweet, nutty flavor and when mashed or pureed turns into a silky consistency that makes an excellent soup. Butternut squash can also be roasted, baked or boiled. In this recipe it is slowly simmered in a combination of cider vinegar and soy sauce which results in a mind-blowing tangy yet sweet flavor. The squash is then partially mashed and combined with leeks, black beans and cheese- yumm! This is a simple dish with a bold flavor that is sure to please.


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