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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Roasted Squash Puree: An Alternative Thanksgiving Side Dish

Do you ever get tired of mashed potatoes? No, because mashed potatoes are a delicious combination of the best type of carbs (potatoes) + fat (butter) around, and don't let anyone tell you differently (though pizza would be a close second). I know some people opt for sweet potatoes, considering them a healthier starch. Sure, okay.

What about other vegetables? Aside from those sweet yams with marshmallows, which isn't something we eat at our house, but to each their own. (We do eat whiskey marshmallows, though. And green bean casserole, of course. We're not monsters!)

This Thanksgiving, you can invite other squash varieties to your dinner with this jazzed up version of a pumpkin puree. The original is great and all, but pumpkins are so much more fun when they're carved in October or in pie in November. Plus, pumpkin puree is usually sweet. This ain't.

We're going to use green pumpkins! With edible skins! That's right, kabocha squash looks just like a pumpkin, but it's green and you don't need to take the skin off. Then there's the ultra cool spaghetti squash. Roast both of these with a couple heads of garlic, and you're halfway through this process. You can even make it a week ahead, and in an effort not to devour it all, freeze!

You'll want to sauté some onion, then add a bunch of spices, maybe add some liquid, throw in the squash. Then blend the whole thing together with a magic stick blender, or food processor, or if you like your veggies a bit lumpier, just mash away. I like my smooth, so I used a stick blender. It's magic. Also, my favorite kitchen gadget.

The trick here is the spices and the secret finishing ingredient:



Yup, limes! Or, more precisely, lime juice. Sounds weird, right? In this case, weird = good. It's deliciously weird! I mean, we're already onboard the off-beat train with two otherwise unlikely squash cousins.

You could totally turn this into a soup instead. Are you a soup eater? Try more liquid. Make it heavy cream and add more delicious calories! 'TIS THE SEASON!!

I like my mashy green-flecked puree. Enjoy.




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Roasted Squash Puree
A savory alternative to mashed potatoes or other typical seasonal puree.
Ingredients
  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 1 kabocha squash
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Adobo salt mixture
  • 2 heads garlic
  • 1 onion
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken broth (or just plain water)
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Salt & pepper to taste
Instructions
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Slice each squash in half and scoop out the innards (save the seeds if you like them, you can roast them at the same time). Cut the kabocha into 1-inch chunks.2. Line two baking sheets with foil. Spread the kabocha pieces on one, place the spaghetti squash halves on the other. Drizzle olive oil over all the pieces (about 2 tablespoons each), followed by a sprinkling of Adobo (about 1 tablespoon for each sheet).3. Cut the tops off both heads of garlic, remove the outer papery skin (leaving the heads intact), drizzle a bit of olive oil over the heads (about 1 teaspoon each). Wrap each head in foil.4. Place the wrapped garlic on a baking dish with the squash, roast in oven for 30-45 minutes, until the squash flesh takes on a golden brown char. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Then scrape the inside of the spaghetti squash to make "spaghetti."(These 4 steps can be done ahead of time and the vegetables kept in the fridge.) 5. While the squash is cooling, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and sauté until translucent. 6. Add the spices and mix to ensure the onions are fully coated. Add the broth, roasted squash, and squeeze the garlic cloves into the pan. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 10-20 minutes, until the squash is soft and easy to mash. Add salt and pepper to taste.7. Blend in batches, add additional liquid as needed until desired consistency is reached.8. Squeeze in lime juice and mix to incorporate. Serve warm.
Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 6-8 servings

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

No-Bake Avocado Mini Cheesecakes

Family dinner night at my parents' house is always the perfect occasion to test recipes, lots of hungry mouths for tasting. Especially when that dinner night happens the same night as the Giants play the Steelers.

Our family is 99.9% Giants fans. My brother is bringing a Steeler fan into the family. We love her. We don't love her team.

But we do love avocados, because they're creamy and come from the land of the Aztecs. The fact that they have skins like dinosaurs is just part of the awesome bonus.

The Steelers fan, weirdo that she is, doesn't like avocados "plain." So I told her I'd put them in cheesecake (my brother's favorite dessert). Two birds, one stone.

The maxim that you can't please everyone all the time is so very true. So when you mix an avocado with condensed milk, cream cheese, and lemon juice, you will get a variety of opinions. Dad thought it was perfect and he's always the hardest to please. Mom loved it too. I was a big fan of the tartness, especially with lime zest over the top.

The rest of the family, not so much.


They're crazy. Don't listen to them. Especially the gloating Steelers fan. We don't want to talk about that. Ugh.

Let's talk about empty pie tins. Because you can either make this cake into 12 mini pies or one large one. The original recipe is very, very simple but called for one large cake. That wasn't going to work with a bunch of little and big kids around. So I adjusted it to make single-serving cakes (mini cakes...cakies) and adding lime zest. It's a great finish.

Far better than whipped cream. 


Less guilt-inducing too. Little cakies, no whipped cream. It's practically calorie-free!

That and the Giants will win the Super Bowl again this season!

Hey, it's totally possible. Don't ruin it for me.


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No-Bake Avocado Mini Cheesecakes
Adapted from Food.com. No baking, just mix, pour, chill. Easy as 1-2-3.
Ingredients
  • 1 large avocado, soft or slightly overripee
  • 13 ounces condensed milk
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 12 mini pie crusts
  • lemon zest
Instructions
1. Blend the avocado, cream cheese, condensed milk, and lemon juice together until smooth. It helps if the avocado is really soft, and slightly overripe as it makes it easier to blend.2. Pour or spoon into the mini crusts.3. Chill for at least an hour (or up to overnight) before serving.4. Before serving, zest lemon on top of each cake. Enjoy chilled.
Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 12 cakes

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Bacon Edamame à la Française

I've been stuck at home watching a lot of tv recently, since my immune system decided to take a vacation. Daytime tv is horrible, so I usually stick to the Food Network and Cooking Channel.

I caught an episode of French Cooking at Home and watched Laura Calder melt a HUGE portion of butter, fry pearl onions in it, and THEN add bacon to it. I was totally on in love with the idea...until she started shelling peas.

Peas irritate me. I don't know what it is about them that bothers me so much, but I don't like them. So I knew I wasn't going to follow this recipe exactly, but I didn't know what to use instead.

And then I remembered there was edamame in my freezer. And despite all the warnings about genetically-modified soy, and soy consumption tied to cancers, I do occasionally indulge in some. It's rare, because I don't want to die (that's why I eat quinoa). But it was the perfect replacement for this exceptionally rich dish.

Obviously with this much butter AND bacon, you eat this sparingly. After you defrost the beans, of course.

The original recipe called for an entire pound (2 cups) of peas. That's a LOT of peas. I decided half a pound of soybeans was sufficient and there was a good balance of beans to everything else. Despite my abhorrence of peas, I do so love bacon. And pearl onions (usually in my martinis, but fried up is good too). Throw in a bunch of lettuce so as not to completely clog your arteries and you're in business.

If you've never peeled pearl onions, all you have to do is boil them for a few minutes and the skins will come right off. Then drop them in butter, and once they're lovely and brown, toss in the bacon. The smell will overwhelm you. It's fantastic.

It's okay to scale back on the butter, if you're really afraid of saturated animal fat. I used half the listed amount and it was just fine. You might also want to be careful about how much salt you use. The bacon will add a good amount, so low-sodium chicken broth is a good bet.

In the end my taste testers (aka mom & dad) loved it. I found it intoxicating, from the aroma while it cooked, to the warm wilted lettuce and plump soybeans in my mouth.

I'm not clear on what makes this à la Française (read: French)...maybe it's the obscene amount of butter? The fact that Laura Calder has a delightful accent? I don't know. Suffice to say it's good food. Just eat it.




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Bacon Edamame à la Française
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 16 pearl onions, peeled and halved
  • 4 slices bacon
  • 1/2 pound soybeans, shelled
  • 1/2 cup low sodium chicken stock
  • 2 cups red leaf lettuce, shredded
Instructions
1. Melt butter in a frying pan and add the onions. Cook on medium heat until the onions begin to brown. Brown food tastes good.2. While the onions are frying, cut the bacon strips into small pieces (sometimes called lardons). When the onions have browned, add the bacon and cook until crispy. 3. Add the soybeans and chicken stock. Cover and cook until tender.4. Add the lettuce, stir, and cook covered until just wilted (about 1 minute).5. Serve warm.
Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 4 servings