1111 Snack dinner with seasonal veg

I’m starting to think that snack dinner is our equivalent of leftover casserole – you know, a bit of this, a bit of that, finishing off a few things that are in the fridge or that looked appealing during the last minute run to the store. (I’d link you to the episode of Malcolm in the Middle that talks about leftover casserole, but in my memory, it’s a just a throwaway laugh, not worth any further mention. We’ll see if I’m wrong.)

I wasn’t feeling up to making, much less eating, the risotto we’d planned on having for dinner tonight, so Shane ran up to Plum to get a baguette and a few other things to have with a tin of tuna and whatever veg side I could throw together during his shopping trip.  I came up with two: spinach sauteed with butter and garlic (and a bit too much salt, which is something you’ll almost never hear me say) and a wee butternut squash, cubed and roasted with ras el hanout.  And I’m not ashamed to say that we finished all of it – baguette, tuna, veg, and a bottle of wine – over the course of the evening.

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1109 TVP Tacos

I’m not sure what possessed me to pick up TVP the other day, other than that it seemed like it might be an inexpensive and healthy way to get a bit more protein into our diets.  Once I dumped the TVP out into a canister at home, however, I realized I had no idea what to do with it.  It’s pretty strange stuff – a soy protein extruded, in the words of Wikipedia, into “a fibrous spongy matrix that is similar in texture to meat”.  Weird.

Anyway, tonight I decided to give it a go.  TVP is notoriously short on flavor, but I suspected that rehydrating it while also rehydrating a dried chipotle pepper might give it a subtle kick – which mostly worked, though the TVP still had a ways to go before being palatable.  Using the same basic recipe as our tempeh tacos, I sauteed the TVP in some vegetable oil with a finely diced onion, a chili or two, cumin, coriander, and a fair amount of salt and pepper.  When the TVP was cooked through and starting to brown, I pulled it out of the skillet, then quickly stir-fried up a couple of cups of mushrooms in the skillet’s residual spices.  We rolled the TVP, mushrooms, and a cubed roasted butternut squash up into vegan burritos.  All in all, not outstanding, but a reasonably good first effort at using TVP.

Recipe:
Tempeh tacos

0928 A Refined Squash Soup

The winter squash from our garden may never materialize, but winter squash has arrived in the market in spades.  And I couldn’t be happier.  The winter months are long and lean in these parts, but butternut squash never fails to put a smile on my face and a healthy dose of beta carotene in my system.

curry butternut squash soup with fresh bread & baked pumpkin seeds
Photo by valkyrieh116

We fell in love with our friend Bill’s butternut squash soup recipe last year, but I have to say that tonight, through my fevered zombie haze, I kicked it up a notch.  I’ve given up on our immersion blender, and had I realized how easily I could do the same things with my food mill, I would’ve done so a long time ago.  While the onion and apple sweat, I pressed the roasted squash into a thick paste using the mill’s coarse plate.  I stirred the squash paste into the onion and apple, added a couple of cups of broth, and let everything simmer a bit.  Once the soup was heated through, I passed it all through the fine plate, which resulted in an impossibly silky texture enhanced by a bit of half and half (in lieu of the whole milk).  Next time I’ll amp up the seasoning a bit during the roasting and sweating steps – I roasted the squash with a dusting of cinnamon and curry, but both flavors were almost lost in the final product – but otherwise, I have to say that this was a damned fine bowl of soup.

Recipe:
Butternut Squash Soup a la Bill Jusino from my other blog

The Last 10 Days of Food

Gees, where to begin?  I’ve been pretty diligent about posting to date, but a weekend of friendos visiting from DC followed immediately by a mid-week trip with some of my favorite girls resulted in 10 days of nothing – and very little desire to catch up.  So here’s what I got:

Mike and Bill rolled in on the 27th, kicking off four days of beer, movies, more beer, vegetarian food, still more beer, a trip to Detroit for the guys, additional beer, dinner at Jolly Pumpkin, and oh, more beer.  I’m still not sure if I accurately captured the amount of beer that was consumed over this weekend.   This wasn’t like a woooo spring break!! kind of blow out – rather, it was a series of tastings, sharing rare or regional treats from each of their stashes.  I wish I’d taken pictures of the very serious boys taking their serious beer very seriously.  I know Shane took a picture of all of the bottles, so that’ll have to suffice.

While the boys were busy with the beer, I made a couple of tasty dinners – Butternut Squash and Fried Sage Pasta (hearty and filling, though not quite what I expected from the recipe) and tempeh tacos (always a crowd-pleaser) – and the killer spinach strata that we’d had at Shana’s on my birthday.  When the boys were late coming back from Detroit, I ate without them, then regretted it as Shane stepped up to make a really delicious Moroccan Carrot Soup (which we’re going to re-run for dinner this week).

Stradaaa

And THEN I hopped on a plane to St Louis, where my friend Erin and I collected some of the best donuts in the country and also some legendary pretzels before hitting the road to Carbondale, where we met up with Angie, Kim, and Laurie for a couple of days of hiking, snacking, napping, drinking, and relaxing with farm animals.

Fritters and Globs

In addition to delicious baked goods and a whole lot of other bad-for-us snacks, we grilled out, toasted s’mores over a campfire, and made breakfast together using two pounds of bacon and the most beautiful farm eggs I’ve seen.  We also checked out a bar and a cute breakfast place in Erin’s neighborhood and had an awesome dinner at Schlafly Bottleworks (including curry crackers that I’m committed to duplicating) on our last night in town.

Farm-fresh free range eggs

Suffice to say that the next few weeks (leading up to um, a special occasion) will should be a bit leaner on the indulgent meals – segueing nicely into the beginning of the growing season and the return of fresh things to the market.  It’s been a delicious and ridiculous ten days – and I’m very much looking forward to getting back into the kitchen and back into more normal eating.

Recipes:
Butternut Squash and Fried Sage Pasta from Self
Tempeh Tacos
Spinach and Cheese Strata from Smitten Kitchen
Moroccan Carrot Soup from Bon Appetit

0322 Butternut Squash Salad Revisited

We intended to have this salad for dinner last night, but instead ate whatever we could find in the fridge – leftover pasta for me, a pizza bagel from West Side Market for Shane.  Tonight, however, a small butternut squash was the star of the meal – another beautiful salad of roasted squash, spinach, and goat cheese.  This is one meal that I think I could eat every week for as long as squash are in season, which won’t be much longer.

Now that I say that, however, I realize that our squash friends have been edging out of season for a while, and that it’s been months since we’ve been to the farmers’ market.  Unless you’re really dedicated (or hate vegetables), it gets harder and harder to maintain seasonal eating as the winter months drag on.  We’ve been diligent about avoiding the strawberries from California and have been working our way through the applesauce and tomatoes canned last fall – but it’s harder to avoid a package of spinach or a hard-skinned squash in the dead of winter when all you want is a colorful change from the white, gray, and muddy color palette.  Now that spring veg is on its way, I’m really looking forward to getting back to the market, and to all of the delicious things the growing season will bring!

0127 Butternut Squash Risotto with Shrimp

So the idea for the evening was that we’d come home, Shane would work out while I made dinner, and then we’d watch the State of the Union address. Instead, we were both starving when we got home, so that plan totally went out the window.  We worked together to prep the squash, pancetta, onion, and shrimp for the risotto, and were rewarded with a comforting and not totally bad for us dinner.

While I will admit to taking some license with many recipes, we followed the recipe for Butternut Squash Risotto with Shrimp almost to the letter.  Granted, I did substitute Israeli couscous for the Arborio rice, but that doesn’t explain why we had at least a cup of excess liquid.  With the amount of vegetable stock reduced by 1-1.5 cups, I think this would be a just about perfect comfort food – warm and savory, with a bit of sweetness from the squash offset by the unexpected salt of the pancetta.  We both added a bit of kosher salt, and were again amazed by how just that small amount of salt nudges the other flavors to the front.  We definitely will make this again, and hopefully soon.

Recipe:
Butternut Squash Risotto with Shrimp from Bon Appetit

0102 Warm Salad with Butternut Squash

It’s 9 degrees right now. 9 degrees and all I can think about is beautiful vegetables. I bundled up this morning and walked to the farmers’ market, but only found meats, apples, and baked goods, none of which were on the shopping list.

It’s somewhat disingenuous to say that tonight’s dinner came entirely from leftovers, but to some extent it’s true – extra bacon fried for breakfast the other morning and goat cheese we’ve been nibbling away at tossed together with roasted butternut squash and ripped up spinach to make a colorful salad.  We made this salad a few weeks ago – then legitimately out of leftovers – and it was a knock-out, the sort of dish that, when drizzled with an intense reduction of balsamic vinegar given to us by Janet as a late housewarming gift, feels like it should be bad for you – except that it’s packed with good stuff and only a modicum of sin.

0102 Warm Salad with Butternut Squash