Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Stuffed Acorn Squash

Fall is my favorite season. Cooler weather, crisp smell in the air, bonfires, apple orchard trips, fall colors… and the FOOD. Apples, squash, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, Brussels sprouts – so many tasty, healthy foods are in season in the fall. And there are so many great ways to prepare fall produce, too.

One of my favorite fall foods is squash, and I love the traditional ‘roast in the oven with butter and brown sugar’ technique. But some days I’m looking for something a little more filling (no pun intended!) than just the squash itself. If you search for “stuffed acorn squash” online you’ll find a ton of different recipes, many featuring some sort of grain/vegetable/protein mix. I tried brown rice, kale, and raisins a few days ago, but felt like the brown rice lacked the flavor and texture I was looking for. So, I decided to try farro, an ancient grain that I’ve used in a previous recipe, because I thought its nuttier, chewier texture would complement the other ingredients well.

Though I used the specified ingredients below, it’s really easy to change out the grains/greens/fruit that I used for other ingredients, as long as you account for any changes in prep time (if you’re going to use meat, for example). Personalize your recipe with whatever combination of ingredients appeals to you.

Farro-Stuffed Acorn Squash with Kale and Dried Cranberries

Stuffed squash

Ingredients

  • 1 acorn squash, halved and seeded
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup kale, torn into small pieces
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups prepared farro (I used the microwaveable kind because it’s quicker)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 4 tsp brown sugar, divided use

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Place squash halves, skin side up, in baking dish or pie tins. Fill dish/tins with enough water so that it’s 1″ deep. Cook squash for 35-40 minutes, or until the squash is tender. Poke with a fork to check for doneness.
  2. When 12-15 minutes of cook time remain for the squash, heat 1 tbsp olive oil in small skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the kale and season with salt and pepper. Cook the kale until it’s nice and wilted, about 2 minutes (this will depend on the size of your kale pieces). Remove from heat and let cool briefly.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the farro, kale, and cranberries, drizzling with a little bit of olive oil as you mix.
  4. When the squash is done, dump the water out of  the dish/tins and let cool for a minute or two. Place 2 tsp brown sugar in each half. Fill with the farro/kale/cranberry mix, packing it in with the back of a spoon as desired. You might have some left over filling – save it for another batch or just to eat later.
  5. Place the squash halves carefully back into the dish/tins (skin side down this time), and bake for another 5 minutes. Enjoy!

Source: Inspired by the kitchn, but recipe is my own culinary genius. ; )

Rice, Lentils, and Greens – Oh My!

Going on week three of the job hunt, and trying to do more cooking, even if it’s just throwing some stuff together for a quick dinner. That’s pretty much what I did last night, using some basic pantry staples and a few other ingredients to whip up a quick and delicious meal. You can sub other grains, protein, and/or greens in this recipe, adjusting cooking times as needed.

Quick Meal: Rice, Lentils, and Greens

Rice, Lentils, Greens

Yield: Approximately two servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown rice (I used the instant kind)
  • 1/2 cup pink lentils
  • 2 – 2 1/2 cups low sodium vegetable broth, divided use
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 – 1 1/2 tbsp garlic scapes, minced
  • one large handful of baby spinach ( or other leafy greens)

Instructions

  1. Prepare rice as directed on box/bag, using vegetable broth in place of water. Set aside.
  2. Rinse and sort lentils, removing any rocks or debris. Pour lentils into a medium saucepan and add 1 to 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth. Simmer for 15-20 minutes,or until lentils have reached desired consistency.
  3. When lentils have about 5 minutes of cook time left, pour olive oil into small skillet. Add garlic scapes and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add spinach and cook until wilted.
  4. Combine rice, lentils, and spinach, and enjoy.

Source: My own culinary genius ; )

Raw Kale Salad with Vegetables and Cashews

Along with the garlic scapes, I bought a bunch of kale at the farmer’s market a few weeks ago. One nice thing about kale is that it’s pretty sturdy, so it can sit in the fridge for a while without getting wilted and/or slimy. I have a few days off this week, which means more time for cooking. I made one or two dishes this weekend, but the results were not very blog-worthy. Sometimes that awesome recipe doesn’t turn out the way you hoped, but you learn from the experience and know what to do differently next time. Yay learning!

Given my recent not-so-great recipe results, I was glad to find one that required little prep and no cooking (except toasting sesame seeds). This salad is light, healthy, and super tasty.

Raw Kale Salad with Vegetables and Cashews

Kale Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch of kale
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1-2 carrots, peeled
  • 10-12 cherry or other similarly sized tomatoes, halved
  • 3 green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced (white and light green parts only)
  • 1 tbsp orange juice
  • 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1/2 cup roasted, salted cashews, roughly chopped

Instructions

  1. Massage the kale: remove the biggest parts of the ribs from the kale leaves, and tear into bite-sized pieces. Place into large glass bowl and combine with lemon juice and salt. Roll the kale leaves between your hands until they become softer and a bit wilted.
  2. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the carrot(s) into 2- to 3-inch strips. Add the carrot strips, tomatoes, and green onions to the kale and combine.
  3. Add the orange juice, vinegar, and olive oil and stir. Let sit for 15 minutes at room temperature.
  4. Add the sesame seeds and cashews and stir again. As with most salads, all the good stuff will fall to the bottom of the bowl, so make sure you include a little bit of everything when you serve the salad.

Source: Adapted from Keys to the Kitchen

Spicy Tofu and Spinach Pasta

I was low on groceries and needed to use up some tofu, so I threw together a quick dinner that ended up being delicious. So delicious that I’ve eaten it two nights in a row. This is a simple, quick dish, and you can change the amounts of the basic ingredients (tofu, spinach, pasta, and sauce) to make it fit your tastes. I’m a saucy girl (ha!), which means I like to load up on the sauce, and usually have some left over, which is great when there’s some tasty baguette to go with it.

Spicy Tofu and Spinach Pasta

Tofu Spinach Pasta

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 7 oz. firm tofu
  • a few handfuls of spinach leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups cooked spaghetti
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup prepared marinara or pasta sauce
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 3-5 minutes, until it’s lightly browned. Add cayenne and cook for 1-2 more minutes.
  2. Remove skillet from heat and squish tofu through hands into pan. Place back on stove and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the tofu is golden brown. Add spinach, salt, and pepper, and cook until spinach is wilted.
  3. In a large bowl combine the pasta, spinach/tofu mixture, and warmed sauce. Sprinkle with a bit of Parmesan cheese.

Source: My own culinary genius. : )

Roasted Beets and Sauteed Beet Greens

I’ve been struggling to eat enough vegetables recently, so I decided to make a vegetable-based dish for dinner tonight. I’m trying to buy and cook produce that’s in season here in Minnesota, so I picked up some beets at the grocery store.

Roasted Beets and Sauteed Beet Greens

Raw beets

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch beets, with greens
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp onion, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • red wine vinegar (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Thoroughly wash the beets (I like to use some steel wool or something similar to give ’em a good scrub) and remove and wash the greens. Discard any greens that are slimy or that have a lot of holes in them.
  2. Place beets in a roasting pan and drizzle with 2 Tbsp of olive oil. Cover and bake for 45 to 60 minutes. Check for tenderness by inserting a butter knife.
  3. When beets are tender, heat remaining olive oil in small or medium skillet. Add garlic and onion, and saute until onions get a little soft and garlic starts to brown.
  4. Tear greens into bite-sized pieces and add to the skillet. Cook until wilted and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Once cool enough to handle, peel the beets with a vegetable peeler, removing any bad spots as you go.

I like to dip my beets in a bit red wine vinegar. The tartness of the vinegar compliments the flavor of the beets well.

I took a few photos of the finished product, but alas, there was no chip in the camera. Rookie mistake : )

Source: Adapted from All Recipes