Stuffed Acorn Squash

This was my dinner the other night. For most people this would probably be a great side dish, but I could only eat one of these before I was full. I just threw together a bunch of stuff I had in my fridge. I didn’t measure anything out exactly, I just added things until I had what looked good and I seasoned to taste. Oh my, for being thrown together this was so good. I plan on making this for Thanksgiving, maybe adding an apple and some walnuts (which I didn’t have when I made it this time). This reheats really well, so it can be made in advance and reheated, which for me is a bonus. The brown sugar crusted squash is well complimented by the slightly tart cranberry stuffing. Yum.

Stuffed Acorn Squash
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1/2 to 1 butternut squash (depends on size)
~3-4 c dried bread cubes
~1 c fresh cranberries
~4 c vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
3 Tbl butter
marjoram (to taste, ~1-2 tsp)
sage (to taste, ~1-2 tsp)
basil (to taste, ~1-2 tsp)
thyme (to taste, ~1-2 tsp)
salt
pepper
2 acorn squash
~ 4 Tbl brown sugar
pine nuts for garnish, if desired

for the stuffing:
Peel and remove the seeds from the butternut squash, then cube. Arrange on a baking sheet and roast at 375F for 15-20 minutes or until fork tender.

Combine bread cubes, cranberries, and butternut squash together in a baking dish. Microwave the butter til melted, add spices to taste, then pour over bread cubes. Add enough broth to moisten bread crumbs (I used about 3/4 of a carton, then after baking a bit added the rest of the broth). Stir gently to combine. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 375F for about 30-45 minutes until the cranberries pop open. Then bake uncovered until golden brown.

for the acorn squash:
Cut each acorn squash in half and remove the seeds. Place flesh side up on a baking sheet. Lightly salt each half, and sprinkle with some brown sugar. Roast at 375 F until tender, about 20 minutes. I like to poke holes in the squash and pop it back in to bake about 5 minutes longer so the brown sugar infuses throughout the squash. Allow squash to cool, then add stuffing. Sprinkle with pine nuts and serve.

Cranberry Apple Walnut Crunch

I know I have talked about how my doctor has requested me to eat lots of sugary, fatty dessert and how I have done my best to follow this. But eating cakes, tartlettes, ice cream, etc gets old pretty fast when you’re eating them every day. Plus, I have to prepare and bake all these treats. Thank goodness it’s now Halloween season. I loaded up on candy and have been snacking on that all throughout the day. I bought one of those fun, plastic jack-o-lantern trick or treat holders, and I keep it on the table beside the couch so it’s near me and I can reach over and eat some candy whenever I want. But this post isn’t about candy, nor my snacking on it; it’s about me finally getting in the kitchen and baking something.

Our weather temperatures are starting to drop to a comfortable mid-70 degrees, so it’s actually starting to feel like fall (at least in the mornings and evenings). Trying to get into the spirit of the season, I thought I’d make some kind of fall-ish dessert. I love cranberries and decided to make some kind of dessert using them. I didn’t really follow a recipe, I just looked at some recipes I had for fruit crisps, cobblers, and crumbles and kind of combined some of them to make this. It turned out so tasty. I wish I would’ve have made some whipped cream or bought some ice cream for topping, that would have made it even better.

Cranberry Apple Walnut Crunch
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10 oz bag cranberries (I used frozen)
2 apples, cored and diced (I used Gala)
~2 Tbsp orange juice (I just added a couple splashes)
1-2 tsp cornstarch
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 c rolled oats (I used an oat multi-grain cereal)
¼ c brown sugar
¼ c sugar
1/3 c whole wheat flour (all purpose is fine, too)
~¼ tsp cinnamon
a bit of freshly grated nutmeg
6 Tbsp butter, cut up and chilled
~¼ c chopped walnuts
1 Tbl ground flaxseed meal (opt)

Preheat oven to 375 F. Butter an 8×8 (or similar) baking dish.

In medium bowl combine cranberries, apples, orange juice, sugar and cornstarch; toss to combine. Spread fruit mixture evenly in baking dish.

In a separate bowl, combine oats, both sugars, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg. With pastry blender (or two knives) cut butter pieces into dry ingredients until pea-sized clumps form. Stir in walnuts. Add ground flaxseed if using. Sprinkle mixture evenly over fruit.

Place baking dish in oven and bake for 45 minutes or until apples have cooked down and begun to caramelize. Topping should be golden brown and liquid bubbling around the edges.

Remove from oven and let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. Store leftovers in airtight container.

Dark Chocolate Espresso Bars

 

What is it about dark chocolate and espresso that is so magical when the two are paired? And why do I find myself craving chocolate more and more, the older I get? I have been craving chocolate espresso desserts recently. Since I haven’t been feeling well, I thought I could get away with buying some coffee flavored ice cream with dark chocolate chunks (specifically, Starbucks Java Frappuccino ice cream). It helped a little, but didn’t satiate my craving. Finally, I broke down and decided to make a simple dessert. While debating what kind of tasty treat to make, I remembered these bars. They are one of Mr. Surly’s favorite chocolate desserts. He’s not opposed to chocolate, but he’s not as into it as I am. “Perfect,” I thought, “I will make something Mr. Surly really likes, then I won’t be stuck eating the majority of the batch.” I’m pleased to say it worked–within days I watched, delighted, as these bars quickly disappeared. And I’m happy to report that I was not the one who ate more than half the batch.

These bars are dark, dense, and delicious, and the next day become even more fudgy. I cut mine into ~2 inch squares, which yields 16 bite-sized servings. Feel free to make your slices bigger. I love these plain, but they would be incredible with a small scoop of ice cream. Don’t feel guilty if you eat more than one at a time, I know I don’t.

Dark Chocolate Espresso Bars
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Makes 8-16 bars, depending on how you cut them

For the bars:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder (I use Hershey’s Special Dark)
3 Tbs. instant espresso powder
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 oz. bittersweet (or semisweet) chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 eggs
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

For the glaze:
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. instant espresso powder
4 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
Pinch of salt

8-16 chocolate-covered espresso beans (optional) (I love the Trader Joe’s Dark chocolate ones)
Preheat an oven to 350F. Generously grease an 8-inch square baking pan.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking powder and salt into a bowl; set aside.

Combine the butter and chocolate in microwave safe bowl. Heat in 30 sec intervals until melted, stirring well between each interval.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and brown sugar until blended. Gradually stir in the chocolate mixture until blended. Stir in the vanilla, then add the flour mixture and stir until blended.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing out the top. Bake until the edges pull away from the sides of the pan and the center is springy to the touch, about 25 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool.

Meanwhile, make the glaze: In a microwave safe bowl combine the glaze ingredients. Microwave in 30 sec intervals until chocolate is melted, stirring well between each interval. Let cool to room temperature.

Using a small offset spatula, spread the cooled glaze over the bars in a thin layer. Refrigerate until the glaze is set, about 30 minutes. Cut into bars or squares. Top each bar with a chocolate-covered espresso bean. Store in airtight container.

Source: slightly adapted from Williams-Sonoma

Oatmeal Buttermilk Bread

We’re not big bread eaters. Not because we are concerned about counting carbs, but simply because we just don’t eat it. I stopped buying bread because we’d eat a few slices and the rest went to waste (well, I’d just tear it up and feed it to the birds).

Ever since I starting having GI issues I’ve stopped buying premade and packaged foods. Now I make almost everything myself, so that I know exactly what is in the food I eat. This way I ensure there are no surprise ingredients that could possibly cause abdominal distress. Recently, I started making my own bread, slicing it up and freezing the slices, so we can thaw slices as we need them. I found many recipes for bread, and this is far and away my favorite. Most homemade bread is dense and heavy, but this one is so light; I love it. I made this loaf to go along with my curried carrot soup. Whatever was leftover the next day I froze. This bread freezes really well. After slicing, I wrap each slice in aluminum foil before placing them in freezer bags and freezing. This method prevents the frozen slices from sticking together, making it easy to just grab one or two slices as needed. You can make it in a mixer, but I like to knead it out by hand; I find kneading to be relaxing and therapeutic.

Oatmeal Buttermilk Bread
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Makes 1 loaf

1 ½ c rolled oats
1 c boiling water
¼ c water
2 tsp + 2 Tbsp agave, divided
2 tsp yeast
1 ½ c buttermilk
½ c extra virgin olive oil
5 c 100% white whole wheat flour (I use Trader Joe’s brand)
~1 Tbl ground flaxseed meal
2 tsp kosher salt

Set aside ¼ cup rolled oats. Place the remaining oats into a medium bowl. Cover with boiling water. Mix with spoon and let sit uncovered for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Whisk 1 tsp agave with 1/4 cup of warm water in a bowl then sprinkle yeast on top. Let rest for 5 minutes. Add soaked oats, buttermilk, oil, 2 Tbsp agave, flour, and salt. Stir to combine, then knead 8-10 min. Dough should be wet but have a satiny finish.

Place dough in a well oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise in a warm area for 1 hour, or until about doubled in size.

Place dough onto a floured surface and flatten to release excess air bubbles. Form dough into a 12 x 6-inch rectangle and position it so that a long side is facing you. Fold the 2 short ends onto the top so they meet in the middle. Starting with the closest end, roll dough away from you into a log. Let loaf rest on its seam for a few minutes.

Transfer loaf to an oiled loaf pan, pressing dough into the corners. Mix remaining agave with ½ tsp with very hot water. Brush over the top of the loaf and sprinkle with the remaining oats. Let sit 35-45 minutes, until loaf rises just over the top of the pan.

While loaf is rising, preheat oven to 385 F. Bake for 1 hour, transfer loaf to wire rack and allow to cool completely before cutting.

Source: slightly adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride

Curried Carrot Soup

I’ve been making this soup for a long time; it’s one of Mr. Surly’s favorites. A few times he has eaten the entire pot of soup in one evening (he ate nothing else but this soup and bread). When I made this recent batch, he came home from working out and declared he would probably eat the entire pot of soup. Fortunately I made a huge salad for him to eat, so I have leftovers of the soup. I am amazed at the amount of food he eats. Granted, he works out every day, but still. When we first moved in together it seemed like I was always running out of food. But now, 2 years later, I have learned how to gauge his appetite better to make sure I feed him enough for dinner, so he isn’t foraging for food an hour later.

This is a great soup to make if you don’t feel like being in the kitchen; there is little prep work involved and it cooks quickly. It’s also pretty spicy, so I usually have naan, pitas, or some other type of bread to serve along with it. The greek yogurt helps to cool down your palate from the spiciness of the soup. Of course you can use sour cream instead, but greek yogurt tastes similar and is much healthier.

Curried Carrot Soup
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Serves 4-6

1 Tbl extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbl butter
1 medium onion, sliced
1 ½ lb packaged baby carrots
4 c chicken stock
2Tbl curry powder
½ to 1 tsp cayenne pepper
coarse salt
greek yogurt, for serving
fresh chives, for garnish
naan or bread for serving

Preheat pot over medium high heat. Add olive oil, butter, onions and carrots and sauté about 5 minutes, til the onions become translucent.

Pour in chicken stock, curry and cayenne, and pinch of salt to the pot. Bring to a boil, cover and cook until carrots are very tender when pierced with a fork, about 15 minutes.

Using an immersion blender, blend soup until smooth and there are no big chunks of carrots left (a regular blender or food processor would work if you don’t have an immersion blender). Adjust seasonings, if necessary.

Garnish with dollop of greek yogurt and chives. Serve with naan or bread, if desired.

Source: adapted from Rachel Ray via food network

Shooting Star

Ugh, it’s been awhile since I tried a new recipe; in fact, I haven’t really been cooking much at all lately. Once again, I’m having trouble digesting solid food, so my diet recently has consisted of mostly liquids—weight gainer shakes, smoothies, soups, etc. I keep trying to add small amounts of solid food, but so far these attempts have been unsuccessful. This drink has been my lunch almost every day for the past couple weeks. It’s based off a beverage served at one of my favorite restaurants from when I lived in Ohio, North Star Café.

Sometimes I miss living in Ohio. I had a quaint little apartment downtown, in the Short North, with gorgeous exposed brick walls and a garden soaking tub in the bathroom. The neighborhood was awesome, too; I could walk to amazing restaurants, bars, shops, art galleries, etc. I lived 2 blocks away from the original North Star Café in the Short North (it became so popular now they have opened at other locations in the area). Anytime I had a guest visitng from out of town I took them to North Star for a meal. I miss their food: wonderful flatbread pizzas, the Buddha bowl, cloud nine pancakes, and the veggie burger. Mmmmm, I’m still trying to recreate that burger. I’ve almost got it, I just need to tweak it a bit more before I post it.

Anyway, this post isn’t about that delicious burger, it’s about my favorite drink there, the Shooting Star. The summer before I moved south, Mr. Surly and I would go to North Star almost every weekend for brunch. I’d order the Cloud Nine pancakes and a Shooting Star. He’d usually get the Big Burrito and coffee. We’d eat, do the daily crossword, and people watch. This is my attempt at recreating the Shooting Star drink. At North Star they put all the ingredients in a juicer. I don’t have a juicer, instead I bought some carrot juice at Trader Joe’s (which is delicious on its own). Mixing that with orange juice, fresh squeezed lemon juice, and freshly grated ginger I was able to make my home version of the Shooting Star. It may not be as good as the original, but it’s pretty close.

Shooting Star
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serves: 1

¾ c carrot juice
1 ¼ c orange juice
1 ½ tsp freshly grated ginger
Juice from ½ lemon

Combine all ingredients in large cup. Using an immersion blender, blend a few seconds times to combine. Or put all the ingredients in a blender and pulse a few times to combine. Pour into serving glass and enjoy.

Source: inspired by North Star Café

Peach Blueberry Crumbles

This week I had peaches to use up along with some blueberries. I love Cook’s Illustrated berry crumbles, but I thought I’d try a new recipe. A quick search on Food Network produced this highly rated Ina Garten recipe. The recipes are pretty similar, a few minor differences, one being more sugar in Ina’s topping.

I have a soft skin peeler that I used to peel my peaches. It has a serrated blade that does an excellent job peeling fruit with soft skins, like peaches and tomatoes. I think it would be fine, if you don’t want to peel the peach, to just dice up the peaches. I also have this multi grain cereal that I added to the topping to get some whole grains.

Peach Blueberry Crumbles
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Makes 4-6 crumbles (depending on size of ramekins)

For the filling:
1 lb fresh peaches (3-4), peeled (if desired), pitted, and diced
4 oz (~3/4 c) blueberries
Zest of 1 small lemon
1 Tbl lemon juice
¼ c granulated sugar
2 tsp cornstarch

For the topping:
1/3 c multi grain hot cereal (or oats)
¼ c sugar
2 Tbl brown sugar
¼ tsp cinnamon
Fresh grated nutmeg, pinch or two
Pinch kosher salt
4 Tbl butter

Preheat oven to 375F.

Combine filling ingredients and set aside, allowing to sit at least 5 minutes. Spoon into ramekins, placed on parchment lined rimmed baking sheet.

Add the cereal, sugars, cinnamon and nutmeg. Cut in butter with a pastry cutter til plenty of pea sized crumbles. Top ramekins with mixture. Bake until bubbling and tops are golden about 25-30 minutes. Cool at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Source: adapted from Ina Garten via food network

Spicy Mexican Pulled Chicken and Vegetables

I love this chicken so much I made myself sick eating too much of it. Since my stomach has trouble emptying I have to eat my meals spaced out. Because a few bites of anything causes my stomach to blow up like a balloon, my nutritionist suggested spacing out each part of my meals. I eat the vegetable, wait an hour or so, then eat the meat/protein, wait an hour or so and eat the potato/grain, etc. It’s frustrating, but I’m getting used to it. However, when it came to taco night I couldn’t help myself, I ate 3 tacos, knowing I should only have had two. I should have waited an hour before eating that third one, but it was so tasty I couldn’t wait. My stomach was painfully distended, but it was so worth it.

For lunch the next day I made nachos covered in the chicken and topped with homemade salsa. You can use this chicken as a topping for nachos, a filling for burritos, tacos, or just eat it as is. Less chipotle chiles can be used if you don’t want too much spice. It also freezes well. I usually just freeze it as is, but you could add the filling to some burritos and make frozen burritos. Unfortunately, this was gone in 2 days, with no leftovers to for me to freeze. Speaking of tacos, have you ever tried the Trader Joe’s organic hard taco shells? They are to-die-for. I will never buy the supermarket ones again. The flavor is unbelievable. If you find yourself at TJ’s, do yourself a favor and get a box.

Spicy Mexican Pulled Chicken and Vegetables
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Serves 4-6

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp ancho chile powder
1 tsp chile powder
½-1 tsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 small onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can corn (or 1 c frozen corn, thawed)
1 can diced tomatoes with jalepenos (or green chiles), undrained
3-4 chipotle chiles in adobo, pureed or finely chopped, plus 2 tsp adobo sauce
1 (10 oz) bag fresh spinach
1 lime

Combine both chili powders, garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste, in a small prep bowl. Mix with a fork.

Add a Tbl or so of grapeseed oil (or EVOO) to a skillet over medium heat. Add chicken breast, sprinkle with spice mixture. Cook 7-8 minutes, then flip, season other side of each breast with the spices, and continue cooking til chicken is cooked through. Remove to cutting board, allow to rest. Once chicken has rested a few minutes, shred with two forks.

Place the diced sweet potatoes into a microwave safe bowl, add a couple Tbl water, cover with plastic wrap. Poke a few holes in the plastic wrap and microwave 3 minutes. Remove and let stand.

Add a Tbl or two of oil to the skillet and sauté the onion a few minutes in the chicken drippings. Add garlic, corn, black beans, diced sweet potato, and any remaining spice mixture. Cook a few minutes, then stir in tomatoes, chicken, chipotle chiles and adobo sauce. Cover and simmer 15-20 min. Stir in spinach til wilted. Squeeze in lime juice and stir. Serve in tacos/burritos, over nachos, or in a bowl. Garnish as desired with cilantro, cheese, salsa, etc.

Source: inspired by/heavily adapted from Tyler Florence

Dark Chocolate Tartelettes with Gingersnap Crust

This week it was time to use up the extra ginger crinkles I had sitting around. I was really excited to make this chocolate tart. The original recipe makes one large tart, but I decided to halve the recipe and make individual tartelettes. With the hint of cinnamon, these tarts reminded me of the cappuccino brownies I made awhile ago. The combination of the gingersnap crust and the dark chocolate is fantastic. Next time (I will be making this again, for sure) I plan on adding a tsp or two of espresso powder because I just love the combination of chocolate and coffee. I had some strawberries in the fridge (since they are finally in season) which I used to garnish the tarts. You can’t go wrong with strawberries, dark chocolate, and whipped cream.

Dark Chocolate Tartelettes with Gingersnap Crust
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Makes 4 tartelettes

For the crust:
6 oz gingersnap cookies (homemade or store bought), coarsely broken
4 Tbsp butter, melted

For the filling:
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
½ c heavy whipping cream
1 large egg
2 Tbsp sugar
1½ tsp flour
Pinch of sea salt
pinch cinnamon
Whipped cream for serving, if desired

Preheat oven to 325 F. In a food processor, pulse gingersnaps until finely ground. Add melted butter and pulse a few times until moistened. Press crumb mixture firmly onto bottom and sides of four tartelette pans (I think mine are 4 inch) with removable bottoms. Place on rimmed baking sheet.

Lightly whisk together egg, sugar, flour, salt and cinnamon in small bowl, and set aside.

Microwave chocolate and heavy cream in 30 sec intervals, stirring in between, until the chocolate is melted. (Or you could add chocolate and cream to a saucepan, whisking over low heat until chocolate is melted and smooth). Gradually, pour about half the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture, whisking to temper the egg. Add rest of cream and chocolate into the egg mixture, stirring until smooth and blended. Pour chocolate filling into crusts. I wound up with extra filling, which I just poured into a greased ramekin and baked along with the tartelettes. It made a delightful, decadent pudding cup.

Bake at 325 F until filling puffs slightly at edges and center is softly set, about 20 minutes. Transfer to rack. Cool tart in pan 20 minutes. Gently remove tart from pan and cool tart completely on wire rack.

If desired, garnish with whipped cream before serving. Store any leftovers in refrigerator, allowing tartelettes to come to room temperature before serving.

Source: adapted from smitten kitchen

Mini Cappuccino Brownies

I love the combination of coffee and chocolate; I like to add espresso powder to regular chocolate desserts. While browsing Martha Stewart’s website these brownies caught my eye. I was intrigued by the addition of cinnamon and nutmeg. Usually, recipes just call for adding espresso or espresso powder to make a dessert cappuccino flavored whereas, this recipe also called for spices. I was anxious to make them and finally I felt well enough yesterday to make a simple dessert. They had great coffee flavor with hints of warm cinnamon; moist and almost fudgy. Even better the next day.

Mini Cappuccino brownies
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4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan
6 Tbsp cocoa powder
2 Tbsp oil (I used flax seed oil, but canola would also work)
¾ c sugar
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
½ c flour
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
pinch salt
½ c semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325F, with rack in center. Butter two 4 ½ inch spring form pans, and line the bottom with parchment or wax paper. Coat paper with butter. Set aside.

Microwave butter 20-30 til mostly melted. Whisk in cocoa and oil until smooth. Then, whisk in sugar, espresso powder, vanilla, and eggs.

In a small bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Add to the chocolate mixture, and stir until just combined (do not overmix). Fold in chocolate chips.

Divide batter between prepared pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out slightly wet, 20-30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; cool completely. Run a knife around edges of pan before removing from pan. I used a small circular cookie cutter to cut my brownies into small, bite-sized pieces.

Source: adapted from Martha Stewart