butternut squash turkey chili

12.11.2017

We had our first snow this past weekend ... which pretty much had me craving all things hot with tomatoes and meat. Options lead to meatballs or chili. I had a pretty long day of looking at appliances at multiple appliance stores... so a low impact chili was the winner.

In the effort to try and switch it up, I pulled back on all the things that have made past chilis amazing: red meat. I swapped out the ground beef and hot Italian sausage for a simple ground turkey. I went heavy on the tomatoes and added in butternut squash. I love the changes.

Some chilis feel a bit sinful in how flavorful they are. Like you know it is loaded up with red meat, then you top it with sour cream and shredded cheese.... and it's amazing. This is a much lighter option. I can't guarantee that it is healthier but it is a good option. 
  1. Preheat oven to 400F. This is for your butternut squash
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Stir in the onion and garlic; cook and stir for 3 minutes, then add the turkey, and stir until crumbly and no longer pink.
  3. Add the chicken broth, tomatoes, chickpeas, kidney beans, and tomato paste
  4. season with chili powder and cumin. 
  5. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to low-medium, cover, and simmer.
  6.  until the squash is tender, about 20 minutes.
  7. Lay your butternut squash out on a sheet pan and drizzle in olive oil. Roast in the oven until tender. Depending on the size of your pieces, it could be anywhere between 20-45 minutes.
  8. Serve your chili in bowls and mix in the butternut squash. If needed, add a bit of sour cream - you won't regret it.
Shopping List
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, cut into thin slices
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground turkey breast
2-3 cups chopped butternut squash (peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch dice)
1 cup chicken broth
2 (14.5 ounce) cans petite diced tomatoes
1 (15 ounce) can kidney beans with liquid
1 (15 ounce) can chick peas
6 oz can tomato paste
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
sour cream

sweet potato and brussel sprout quinoa cakes



I think just last week I was commenting on how unenthused I was about quinoa. I probably said the exact same thing the last time I made quinoa cakes. But, as I was wrapping up my weekend I felt the need to treat my body a bit like a temple. I had some leftover butternut squash chili but for some reason quinoa was calling my name.

I am notoriously bad at cooking grains. I simply can't make rice or quinoa - but give me a rice cooker and I'm all set. I tossed some quinoa in the rice cooker before taking my shower and by the time I was done so was the quinoa.

This meal really came together rather holistically. I literally made it up as I went. Here are some quick notes:

  • Sweet Potato // I have recently fallen in love with zoodled sweet potatoes (ate them 4 meals last week). So I chopped up some that I had leftover. Finely chopping sweet potato sounds like an arduous task which makes zoodling first pure genius.
  • Brussel Sprouts // Admittedly the brussel sprouts make it a little more challenging to form the cakes. I left my sprouts a little more roughly chopped (e.g. big) which was great for texture but made it a little harder. If you are apprehensive, just chop the sprouts more finely. No big deal.
  • bread crumbs // these are essential to keeping the cakes together. Don't skip it. I also feel like you get better results with bread crumbs over panko flakes.


Here's how it goes. Oh, and here are the other times I've made quinoa cakes (201220132014, 2017)
  1. combine cooked quinoa, egg, and breadcrumbs in a bowl. You want the consistency to be very loose since you haven't added your chunky ingredients yet.
  2. Add in your brussel sprouts and sweet potato. You are the captain, as much or as little as you want. Eventually, you want the consistency to be on the wet, loose side but enough that it stays together if you were to ball it up in your hands. I know this isn't a really helpful description - but fundamentally, don't let it be dry and don't load up on breadcrumbs.
  3. spoon the mixture into gentle balls and place into a medium-hot skillet.
  4. let cook until browned and then flip to the other side.
  5. Toss a few extra sprouts in the pan to cook for a topping.
  6. plate the cakes on a plate and scatter with parmesan and capers. Drizzle olive oil over the plate.... and then eat.
Shopping List
for 3 cakes
1 egg
1 cup of cooked quinoa
handful of roughly chopped brussel sprouts (~5) + plus more for topping
1/4 cup finely diced sweet potato
capers
parmesan
bread crumbs

butternut squash soup

11.26.2017


As previously documented, I was responsible for brining two things to Thanksgiving Dinner. Cranberry Sauce... and Butternut Squash. The cranberry sauce went much better than the squash. The squash was too lumpy and unimpressive. I tried to fix it by adding candied walnuts and that was really just a bandaid for a bad dish.

So at the end of the meal, I packed them up and figured I'd try and turn it into soup. The soup was a far greater success than anticipated - and incredibly easy considering I already had a good start on the squash. Squash soup is pretty decent but can be boring or bland. This soup was the opposite of that thanks to the extras that I added: pomegranate, fried sage, and a dash of sour cream.

In the past, I've always just defaulted to adding croutons to a soup but these were great ways to add not only a little extra heft to the meal - but also texture and flavor.

Here's how it goes.

  1. Combine squash and chicken stock in a pot on the stove. Stir to begin blending the two ingredients together.
  2. In a skillet, sautee chopped garlic and then add to the squash pot. 
  3. Blend the ingredients together using either a blender or an immersion blender.
  4. Reheat before serving if necessary.
  5. For the toppings, drop a tablespoon on sour cream on your soup and then swirl it with a knife. Then add in your pomegranate seeds and fried sage.

Shopping List
3 cups butternut squash
3-4 cups chicken stock
2 cloves garlic
sour cream
pomegranate seeds
sage
butter

Maple Orange Cranberry Sauce


Cranberry sauce is a pretty straight forward dish. It could not be easier to make and customize to your own tastes. You have a better chance of screwing up everything else on your table than the cranberry sauce. 

About a month ago I went to a cooking demonstration at a local appliance store. The chef demo'd brussel sprouts, mushroom bread pudding, and cranberry sauce. My prime takeaways? I don't use enough olive oil in my mushrooms and I've been cooking brussel sprouts all wrong. With regards to the cranberry sauce, I always knew it was easy but they did this great little "make your own" bar thing with it. After making just a very basic batch of sauce, they had different sweeteners to pour over the top of it (whisky based, maple syrup-ish, citrus-ish, etc).

For Thanksgiving this year, I was responsible for butternut squash and cranberry sauce. I'm pretty sure that I failed at the squash. It was just too lumpy and sad. I might turn it into a soup? But the cranberry sauce was a win. Here's how it goes.

Also, the picture at the top shows the progression during cooking. 0 minutes > 10 minutes > 22 minutes. After about twenty minutes, you've got homemade sauce and everyone is impressed.
 
  1. Rinse the cranberries. 
  2. Place a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat and add the cranberries, 1/3 cup pure maple syrup, orange zest, orange juice, and water. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture comes to a boil. Continue boiling over medium heat until the berries burst and break down, forming a sauce, 15-20 minutes. 
  3. Taste for sweetness. If it’s too tart, add more syrup – a tablespoon at a time – until the sauce tastes sweet enough for you. 
  4. Remove from the heat and let cool. Spoon into your serving container to serve or store in an airtight container, refrigerated, for 3-4 days. 
Shopping List
3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup pure maple syrup + more if needed
1 tablespoon orange zest
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup water 

harvest scones

11.23.2017


I've been itching to make scones for several weeks now - and today was the day.

When I put up my Christmas tree last week, I felt like I had some gingerbread scones on the brain. But with Thanksgiving happening, I pulled a switcheroo and went with some pumpkin. I am not a "pumpkin" person per se. I never opt for pumpkin because it feels so abused and sometimes the flavoring is so strong. But, these scones are perfection.

While I love making scones, I sometimes skip it because my method can be so arduous. But when I discovered how to make amazing scones, I just couldn't go back. The frozen butter and then subsequent freezing steps just take it to the next level. But - I just couldn't motivate for all the steps tonight. So instead I took a few shortcuts:
  1. grated frozen butter / absolutely important, can't skip this
  2. after making the dough, shape into a flat disk or square shape then put in the freezer for 5 minutes / no need to roll out the dough just keep it cold.
  3. take the dough out of the freezer, and cut into scones. put back in the freezer for 30 minutes. / this step is another can't miss. it's really important.
The steps might still seem like a lot - but I promise that it is less work than the original steps that include a rolling pin and flour all over your counter. Takeaways? Frozen dough is critical to scone perfection.
  1. Grate your frozen butter into a bowl and put it back in the freezer to keep it cold.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and spices.
  3. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the pumpkin and eggs till smooth.
  4. Add the frozen butter to the bowl and mix to combine. Then add the pumpkin/egg to the dry ingredients and stir until all is moistened and holds together. You might need to add a little milk to get everything together.
  5. Dump the dough into some flour covered parchment. Shape into a disk or rectangle and then put in the freezer for 5-10 minutes while you prep the oven and baking sheet.
  6. Line a baking sheet with parchment and preheat the oven to 425.
  7. Take your dough from the freezer and cut into whatever shape you want. Place scones on the baking sheet and then put the uncovered sheet in the freezer for up to 30 minutes.
  8. Brush each scone with melted butter and then bake for 20-25 minutes in the oven. 
  9. If desired, make a simple glaze of powdered sugar and milk. Sprinkle the top of the glazed scone with chopped cranberries.
Shopping List
2 3/4 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon + 1/4 teaspoon each ground ginger, nutmeg, and allspice
1/2 cup frozen butter
1/2 can of pumpkin
2 large eggs
dried cranberries

Roasted Broccoli Soup

10.29.2017

I had broccoli cheddar soup the other day for lunch and it was pretty solid - but like grocery store solid, not like "make at home" solid. It reminded me that I had this recipe flagged from last winter but had not gotten around to it. To be clear, this is absolutely not a broccoli cheddar soup. It's a far healthier version.

This soup is loaded with vegetables and has zero cream in it. In fact, it doesn't have cheddar either. Except for when I decided to cheat and sprinkle a little cheddar on as a topping. But, it is incredibly easy to make. I did this on like a Tuesday night after work and commuting home. I was half planning on just making an egg sandwich and then realized I bought the broccoli over the weekend. Broccoli soup it is.

Here's how it goes.

  1. Prep the broccoli and lay on a sheet pan. Quarter the shallot and add to the pan. Drizzle with olive oil and roast at 425 for about 25 minutes. Turning as needed.
  2. Reserve about 1/4 cup of broccoli to the side (this is for topping).
  3. Add the roasted ingredients, spinach, chicken stock, and parmesan to the blender. Blend until evenly pureed.
  4. Add to a pot and heat until warm. Squeeze the juice of one lemon, and zest in the pot before serving.
  5. Serve!


Shopping List
1 1/4 pound broccoli
2 cup spinach
1 shallot
3 cups chicken stock
1/2 parmesan
1 lemon

back to garden time

10.24.2017

It's been about a lifetime since I was in the garden. I think the last meaningful time was when I was prepping for the "hurricane" that never was. The worst part of that was I picked all of this fruit that largely ended up spoiling because I couldn't eat it, sauce it, or give it away fast enough. Quite the bummer.

But this was the first Fall weekend when there wasn't a football game, bad weather, or a birthday party - so I got the chance to climb back in there and see what was left. The weather has been so warm for the last week or so that it almost felt like summer.

After just over an hour, things began to feel under control again. The main goal was to remove dead or unproductive branches. The secondary goal was to trim back the plants a bit heavily so as to concentrate all the growing energy on ripening the remaining fruit. An unexpected result? I ripped out a couple of plants completely.

I do wish I had a couple more hours to get things back to normal for the last week or so of growing - but the super short days there just isn't much time for gardening before or after work. Really took for granted that I could go to work, come home, take a long walk, and spend some time in the garden before it got dark. Now? It's dark before I even get home.

TOMATOES

  • ripped out both the Razzle Dazzle 
  • ripped out one of the Red Lightening
  • trimmed back the Orange juice rather heavily
  • could have done more on the black cherry, mystery tomato, black truffle

End result, this cleaning provided a good retrospective of what I really liked about this growing season. Every year I want to plant the black truffle, I always care about checking on its progress. I also really love the cherries but can barely eat all of them (never mind the rest of the produce).

CUCUMBERS
This plant got a lot stronger with the dip September dip in temperature. It really cements the logic that cucumber plants need to go in on the early side to develop better roots. Everything about this babe is heartier. There were a few itty bitty Mexican gherkins hanging around when I peeked under the leaves.

OTHERS

  • PEPPERS // Beyond disappointing. Quite literally 3 peppers all season off of 5 plants? Yes, we had some super windy weather but still. I'm not exactly sure what I would plant instead but these were super dumb.
  • CARROTS // So many. Like, so many carrots. Need to look into how I preserve them for the winter. Something about putting them in a box with sand and straw? 
  • BEANS // I tried to plant a second batch of beans. Didn't take off. They looked good at the start but never took over... even a little. They were so skinny and thin when I pulled them all out this weekend. No sign of beans.
  • KALE // So much kale. One of the great things about kale is how you don't really need to babysit it. It just grows and you pick it. But, right now I could go for some arugula and this weekend I had to buy spinach. I'd like to try and be a little more diverse about this next year. In a fantasy land, I have a tiny cold frame that I keep in the garden to keep greens growing a little longer.
  • HERBS // I have never seen parsley so large in my life. It's like it's on growth hormones but I haven't fertilized (organic) in probably 2 months... The basil is gone and the parsley swallowed the mint whole. I didn't even think anything could kill mint but apparently this parsley has super powers. 

Veggie 2017: hurricane prep [9/17], garden update [9/9], green tomato party [7/27] garden update [7/10], garden decisions [5/27], what I planted [6/16]

foliage fun

10.23.2017

Whenever summer leaves, I mourn the end of it hard. I'm not sure what exactly it is that I miss the most. It might be the extra hours of daylight, warmth, and limited expectations for productivity. I expect very little from myself during summer weekends. Take a walk. Take care of the tomatoes. Eat a BLT.

But when October rolls around, I'm full on embracing Fall - especially one with this super warm weather. For the last two weekends, it's been beautiful and the leaves are turning and I'm loving it. I grab Ruby May and we hit the road to stretch our legs. She does not like the woods. So I literally end up lifting her out of the car at every stop - which is fun because she's a 60 pound dog shaped sand bag. 

Earlier this week I had a doctor's appointment which gave me the opportunity to see some leaves mid-week. It was really great. Like, want to do it more often great - which is of course hard because of work. But, I've scouted out a few other spots on the South Shore that could be good pre-work hike/walks or after work hike/walks in the Spring. In particular there is a trail across from a train station that made my heart sing. Every now and then I want to run, and this trail made me want to run.

Here's to celebrating October.

[top] - Jacobs Pond, Norwell
[1] - Triphammer Pond, Hingham
[2] - George Washington Forest, Hingham
[3-7] - Norris Reservation, Norwell

buttermilk mac and cheese

10.18.2017


I really love macaroni and cheese. Like, really love it.

It would be hard for me if someone were to tell me that I couldn't eat Kraft Macaroni & Cheese anymore. I'm a bit of a traditionalist. I don't believe in white cheddar, I just want normal Kraft. I also don't put milk in it. I don't like it creamy. I absolutely see my macaroni tastes being one of those things that even on my deathbed I'd have a hard time letting someone make for me. Thanks, but I make my own.

But - I can't reasonably make (and serve) Kraft macaroni to thirty plus people. While it is feasible, it would be pretty odd to invite friends and family over for a 30th Birthday party complete with ceremonial koozies ... and then serve them boxed macaroni and cheese. I pretty quickly found this version of my goal on Food52. The first thing that shocked me was how much cheese and milk goes into making mac and cheese. Before attempting on the day of the party, I wanted to give this recipe a trial run.

After stalling for probably a week, I finally got up the courage to make this meal from scratch. So I was incredibly surprised when it was completely easy and done in less than 45 minutes. Homemade mac and cheese is EASY! I am not sure I can go so far as to say "Easier than Kraft" but it's absolutely faster than Stouffers. And like all my favorite recipes, you can customize the hell out of it.

By the time it got to party day, I was totally ready to make this dish - except when combined with the honey cornbread and the chili, I kept miss counting my ingredients. After one trip to the store for eggs and honey, I couldn't bare another to get more milk - which is how we ended up with buttermilk mac and cheese. I do believe that the buttermilk was a differentiating "wow factor". There is no good reason for people to tell me they loved this dish as much as they did. It was clearly the buttermilk.

So here are some notes:

  • Buttermilk - See above. Really, just use any milk. For the second batch, I had run out of buttermilk and ended up using almond milk. It was fine but the consistency of the creamy cheese was different. Buttermilk is the best milk.
  • Panko topping - This dish had an insanely good crunchy top to it. I went with a moderately aggressive sprinkle of panko flakes combined with more sharp cheddar cheese. You'll have to broil it to get it SUPER crunchy but panko flakes are the way to go. During the trial bake, I split the pan between being half regular breadcrumbs - and it's just not as good. Panko flakes please.
  • Make ahead - Initially I was looking for a dish I could make days in advance, a friend cautioned me that mac and cheese could be risky. While I made this the day of, you can easily do enough prep the day before to make it easier. Make your pasta, measure your cheeses, make your croutons.
  • Croutons - Speaking of croutons, Martha's recipe called for them. I always have bread on hand but given the "hot dog" theme to this party, I opted to make them out of hot dog buns instead of white bread. The consistency is different but also lighter than normal bread croutons. Would absolutely use these in a pinch again.

Here's how it goes.





  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside. 
  2. Fill a large pot with water; bring to a boil. Add macaroni; cook 2 to 3 minutes less than manufacturer's directions, until the outside of pasta is cooked and the inside is underdone. (Different brands of macaroni cook at different rates; be sure to read the instructions.) Transfer macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Set aside.
  3. In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, heat milk. In the same pot you used for boiling the pasta, melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add flour. Cook, whisking, 1 minute.
  4. While whisking, slowly pour in hot milk. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.
  5. Remove pan from heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 cups cheddar cheese, and 1 cup Pecorino Romano. Stir reserved macaroni into the cheese sauce.
  6. Pour mixture into prepared dish. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cups cheddar cheese and panko flakes over top. 
  7. Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes. If after 30 minutes, it's not browned to your liking, broil the topping rather than leaving it in the oven, which may cause the pasta to overcook and sauce to dry out.
Shopping List
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for dish
4 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
3 1/2 cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese (about 18 ounces)
1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese (about 5 ounces)
1 pound elbow macaroni (or other small pasta shape)
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