Tag Archives: meat

Savory Stuffed Acorn Squash with Lamb and Cranberries

Acorn Squash Stuffed with Lamb and Vegetables

For those of you who don’t know me very well, my food lifestyle and this blog started because of a lifetime of dealing with Lyme Disease and her related minions.  Since I was twelve I’ve had three serious flares of Lyme, which have resulted in severe joint and bone pain, muscle spasms, neurological waves of yuckiness (medical term) and scores of issues with food.

But I am very fortunate.  I have an incredible medical team, a supportive family, and health insurance through my family business (it’s practically impossible to get insurance outside of a business if you have a pre-existing condition).  And the intimate experiences I’ve had with my body have shaped my lifestyle and approach to wellness and food.  

This week I could feel the weather changing in my bones.  From a springy, energetic summer demeanor I’ve felt my body shifting into the Hunchback of Washington Heights.  Today, for the first time in a while, I had to medicate, and know the coming cold will make this a more regular occurrence.

But overall I still feel so far from where I’ve been before.  And that is a result of listening to my body, seeking out excellent medical advice and constantly nourishing my body with the goodness of positive things around me.

Enter this recipe.  I’d noticed I’ve been craving meat lately, suggesting that I may be slipping back into anemia.  The abundance of root vegetables and hearty leafy greens of the season is timed perfectly.  As is the new batch of Indonesian cinnamon I just picked up.  Along with the calming, inspiring affect I feel when working with food, a recipe like this provides so many nutrients to fortify us against the coming cold.

And it’s just plain tasty.  And not hard to make.

Many newer cooks can be intimidated by lamb – I know I once was.  But it’s one of my favorite meats to cook, and so deliciously versatile.  I find it takes the combo of sweet and savory that I so love better than pork or beef.  And it’s packed with iron.

Acorn squash is another of my favorite fall foods: along with simply roasting it, it’s the perfect nest for meaty and vegetarian dishes alike.  A favorite filling is tempeh stir-fried with quinoa, carrots and dried fruit.  Heck, even a Thanksgiving bread stuffing would taste divine.

But this one combines lamb, onions, carrots, cranberries, Brussels sprouts and sunflower seeds for warm, filling and dynamic results.

The recipe is endlessly adaptable.  Grab what you have leftover in the fridge or pantry, and have a blast.

Happy Autumn everyone!

Lamb, Carrots and Brussels Sprouts Inside Sweet Acorn Squash

Ingredients:

  • 2 acorn squash, halved and seeded
  • 2 Tbsp blackstrap molasses, regular molasses or pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup rocking awesome olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 5 large cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 1 lb lamb, cut into small cubes
  • 2 Tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 4 carrots, scrubbed and chopped into small pieces
  • 6-8 Brussels sprouts, shredded
  • 1/2 cup fresh cranberries
  • 1 2-inch ginger root
  • 1 tsp sharp cinnamon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • sunflower seeds or other chopped nuts to taste

Method:

  • Heat oven to 350°.
  • Place squash in a deep baking pan skin down.  Brush with molasses / maple syrup.
  • Place in heated oven and bake for 30 minutes while prepping lamb.
  • In a large skillet or cast iron pot, heat oil on low.
  • Add onions and garlic and cook on low until golden and soft.
  • Season lamb with salt and pepper and add to skillet, browning on all sides.
  • Add rosemary and toss to coat.
  • Remove lamb to plate.
  • Into the hot skillet drop cranberries and cook for 1 minute.
  • Add carrots, Brussels sprouts and cinnamon.  Grate ginger over the mixture and stir to combine.  Cook for about 8 minutes until the vegetables soften.
  • Add vinegar and toss to coat.
  • Turn off heat, return lamb to skillet and mix thoroughly to combine.
  • Remove squash from oven, fill evenly with lamb mixture.  Cover with tin foil.
  • Return to oven and cook an additional 30 minutes or until lamb just starts to brown on top.

Serve sprinkled with nuts and a drizzle of molasses and vinegar, if desired.

Makes four hearty servings.  Great as a main course with a salad or wilted greens on the side.

Beautiful to present at a special dinner, too!

Foodbuzz 24×24: A Scarborough Fair Summer Supper Party

Scarborough Fair Supper Party

Life is so delicious.  Last night, August 27th, I joined 23 other bloggers from around the world in hosting dinner parties with varying, festive themes as a part of FoodBuzz’s 24×24 dinner party.

I had crafted a dreamy, end-of-summer supper party proposal for this monthly internet party, thinking we’d be poolside at my childhood home in Connecticut.  I had envisioned bubbly, fruity cocktails, sunblock, French music and pulling herbs and vegetables fresh from the garden for cooking.  We would feast as the sun went down in bathing suits and sweaters, candles and lightening bugs lulling us into full contentment.  Each course on the menu would highlight the unique fragrance and taste of an herb that was found primarily from my father’s garden and my window boxes – rosemary, parsley, basil, chives, spearmint, chocolate mint, sage and lavender.  My guest list was assembling, I was menu-planning in my head and on paper, and things were shaping up perfectly in my little fantasy.

But reality trumped fantasy this weekend:  a hurricane walloped my perfect party plans.  The poolside fete turned morphed into an apartment party – getting to Connecticut was deemed almost impossible with Hurricane Irene running up the eastern seaboard.  Then our mayor shut down our entire transit system beginning at noon on Saturday – there went half of the guest list, who were coming from Brooklyn, Queens and various nooks in Manhattan up to my apartment near the Hudson far up on the west side.

What resulted, though, was still an incredibly fun evening.  6 locals within walking distance joined me on the rainy, humid night.  My roommate and I had spruced up the apartment, cleaning and decorating as festively as possible.  Because of the impending winds we had to move my herbs inside anyway – they made incredibly fitting center-pieces along with all those emergency candles.

We threw on some French music, lit the candles, settled in with mint juleps and champagne, and chatted away as the rain poured down.

My guests were lovely in their praises of the food and asked me to describe each course in detail – how things went together and the inspiration behind each.  Amongst the chaos that had been descending on the city in preparation for what was expected to be one hell of a storm, most of my friends over the city were huddled in their apartments with liquor and junk food.  We, on the other hand, celebrated the apocalypse with empanadas, prosciutto, roast beef, rosemary potatoes and homemade French macarons and ice cream.

Everything on the menu was homemade, planned to highlight some fabulous flavors.  And the entire menu was gluten and cow-dairy free.

And the hurricane?  Well, we didn’t lose power and the sidewalks up here are strewn with fallen leaves.  That’s just about it.

Because of the lack of light in the apartment due to the storm the pictures of the party are quiet uneven – most food shots being taken throughout the day as courses were prepped.  Recipes for what can be shared are linked to below the images.

The Menu

First Course

Melon, Basil, Proscuitto, Iberico cheese

Melon, Basil, Prosciutto, Iberico Cheese drizzled in lavender honey.

Herbs highlighted: basil and lavender

Empanadas

Gluten-free beef empanadas.

Herbs highlighted: chocolate mint

These were a huge hit. I had been dying for an empanada recipe after indulging in the gluten-full ones at my favorite restaurant recently, so these were an early thought on the menu.  Beef was sauteed in onions and garlic, then stewed down with cocoa, honey, cinnamon and hot pepper before golden raisins and olives were mixed in.  Finally the chocolate mint was blended and the mixture cooled before being filled into the flaky crust.  Click here for the recipe.

Parsley-Basil Macarons

French Macarons with Herb Filling

Herbs highlighted: parsley and basil

This was the most out-0f-the-box contribution to the evening.  I had FINALLY made macarons to perfection – it only took me five tries, interviewing macaron cookbook author Jill Colonna and taking a class at Dessert Truck Works to figure them out.

So I wanted to incorporate a savory macaron into the meal as well as using them in dessert.  Luckily Jill, in her book Mad About Macarons, had an incredibly easy filling that was basically parsley and basil blended with oil.  So I threw a non-descript amount of both in my food processor along with some bergamont-flavored olive oil, pink Himalayan sea salt and fresh lemon juice.

The result?  One guest actually said that this was her favorite of the three appetizers – the sweetness of the macaron and its gentle crunch crumbled perfectly underneath the herb mixture.  It was both salty, sweet and savory.

Unfortunately I don’t have a great picture of the final product because we were in hurricane mode lighting-wise by the time they were prepared.  But grab Jill’s book if you want the recipe and some amazing others.

Entree

Roast Beef, Rosemary Potatoes and Herbes de Provence Summer Squash

Roast Beef

Herbs highlighted: rosemary and chives

I don’t often make roast beef.  But I love using fresh rosemary on roasts, and as there was an abundance at my dad’s house this seemed only fitting.  I brought the meat to room temperature and then crusted it in olive oil, about 5 Tbsp fresh, finely chopped rosemary and 1 Tbsp of chives, as well as a little kosher salt and cracked pepper.  Then I placed it in an elevated roasting pan on top of a shallow bath of onions, garlic and lots of fresh rosemary.  Cooked to medium rare, it was quite delicious and only took an hour and a half to roast.

Rosemary Thyme Roasted Potatoes

Rosemary Thyme Roasted Baby Potatoes

Herbs highlighted: Um, rosemary and thyme?

I didn’t take a picture of the final product, again due to poor lighting.  But aren’t these tiny potatoes gorgeous!?! I love how easily they roast – they went into the oven doused in olive oil, kosher salt and fresh rosemary and thyme.  Without parboiling they were crispy and soft.  Perfection.

Summer Squash

Summer Squash with Herbes de Provence and Lavender Honey

Herbs highlighted: lavender, savory, fennel, thyme basil

Well, it wasn’t from my dad’s garden but this squash was local and deliciously sweet.  I doused it in a tiny bit of oil, a load of herbes de Provence (which in general I could never live without) and spoonfulls of lavender infused honey.  It went in the oven with the roast and potatoes, and in about thirty minutes was toasty and sweet.

Dessert

Hurrican Irene Erosion

Honeybun Ice Cream, French Macarons and Fruit Compote

Herbs highlighted: spearmint, lavender

What better way to end a summery supper party than with homemade ice cream and French Macarons with local summer fruit?  This dessert was gluten and dairy free, sweetened only with honey but oh-so satisfying.  Click here for the recipe.

The Party

Despite the rain, the threat that power-outages were coming, the lack of public transporation and the fact that we weren’t next to a pool celebrating the end of the summer, I was pretty darned pleased with my FoodBuzz Party.  No, it was not what I had planned.  But the food was still center-stage, and it was pretty damned good.  Possibly the best menu in entirety that I’ve ever made.  And I could think of no better way to spend the worst part of the storm than with some great people, some fabulous food and a festive atmosphere.  Hopefully I’ll get another shot down the road at hosting a Foodbuzz dinner party, but until then – thanks Foodbuzz.  And Irene.  And the glorious people in the pictures below for trekking out in the downpour to join me.

Place-settings

Menus decorating piano as we eat.

Friends

Amy - she also has gluten and dairy problems so this party was perfect for her!

Old-time buddy Jon - evidently he liked his dessert.

Meg - gorgeous with her dessert.

Gary enjoys spearmint. Just ignore Jon.

Empty, honey covered plate and chocolate mint.

The herbs were the focus still of the evening

Ambiance

My dog Mitra - hates rain, LOVES prosciutto

Bringing the outdoors in.

Gluten-free Chocolate Mint Beef Empanadas

Beef Empanadas with Chocolate Mint

My favorite NYC restaurant makes empanadas to die for – filled with beef, raisins and olives and encased with a flaky, crumbly crust.  Now and then I indulge, even though they’re packed with gluten, because they’re just so damned good!

So when putting together my menu for FoodBuzz’s 24×24 dinner party, I decided it was time to make these puppies gluten-free.

My proposal was a “Scarborough Fair Summer Supper Party”, where each dish would be created around an herb or bunch of herbs.  For the empanadas, chocolate mint was to be the herb.  Yes, this is an herb that I have growing in my window box that tastes both like chocolate and spearmint.  It’s divine in so many ways.  So I decided to go with a classic filling of beef, onions, garlic, raisins and olives but, to highlight the mint, also added cocoa, cinnamon and honey.

They had my guests drooling and my roommate so ready for more that after I post this I’m back into the kitchen to whip up another batch with the leftover meat.  The filling is both sweet and spicy, the crust flaky yet solid.

They’re completely gluten and dairy free, and full of flavor.

Ingredients: filling

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup diced white onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 – 1 1/4 lb ground beef – the higher quality the better, obviously!
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1/2 cup chopped green olives
  • 1/2 cup white raisins, soaked in warm water and drained
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp chocolate mint

Directions: filling

  • Heat the oil on low in a heavy saute pan or stockpot.
  • Add the onions and garlic and cook on low until soft.
  • Add the red pepper, paprika, salt and cocoa and cook until incorporated.
  • Add beef and saute for about five minutes until just brown.
  • Add the water and cook until it boils down and the mixture is soft but not watery.
  • Add the olives, raisins and chocolate mint and stir to incorporate.
  • Remove to fridge and chill for up to 24 hours to let the flavors meld.

Ingredients: Dough

  • 2 cup brown rice flour
  • 1 cup quinoa flour
  • 1 cup tapioca starch or arrowroot
  • 2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 20 Tbsp Earth Balance Butter or unsalted butter, cubed
  • Up to one cup ice cold water

Directions: Dough

  • In a food processor, whip all flours, xanthan gum and salt together to combine.
  • Add the cubed Earth Balance and pulse to combine until the butter is wrapped in flour in little pea-sized clumps.
  • Slowly add the water, bit by bit, until the dough comes together into a ball but is not wet.

Assemblage:

  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  • Line baking sheets with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray / wipe with oil.
  • Turn the dough out onto a floured board (I use rice flour when rolling pastry).  Work with one quarter of the dough at a time.  Roll to 1/8 inch thickness, constantly turning, flipping and re-flouring the board as necessary.  Cut into 4″ rounds.
  • Place dough on sheets and put about a tablespoon of filling in the center of each.  Wet the edges of dough and fold over and press to seal.  Crimp edges with a fork.  Repeat until you have about 30 beautiful little empanadas.
  • If desired, wash the top of the empanadas with an egg beaten with a little water to make them glossy and bright.
  • Bake for about 8 minutes, turning the sheets halfway through.
  • Cool slightly before serving.
  • Prepare to be wowed.

 

Last Gluten-Free Noodle Standing!

A while back New York Magazine did an article called “Last Noodle Standing“, where three chefs and one really Italian guy compared the city’s best dried pasta and voted on their favorites.  Not being able to indulge in what they said were some stellar noodles, I devised my own challenge: “Last Gluten-Free Noodle Standing”!

I hosted a few friends over to taste-test five pastas that contained no gluten whatsoever.  We followed the same protocol as the NYMag article: each pasta was boiled in salted water according to package directions and then tasted on its own with nothing on it, and then again with some sort of sauce.  Whereas the NYMag guys just used oils and cheese as their sauce, we kicked it up a notch and had some heartier coverings.  We rated each category – flavor, texture and sauce absorption – on a 30 point scale, for a total of 90 points.

To up the fun, my guests were not given the types of grains the pastas were made out of, and only after we totaled everything up did they discover the source of what they liked and didn’t like.  And unlike NYMag we’re admittedly not the city’s top pasta chefs.  But along with yours truly – the can’t-eat-much-normal-food gal – my judges are peeps who know how to eat on a budget, and quality pastas are at the top of anyone’s recession-spending list.

Note: gluten-free pastas tend to overcook easily, becoming very mushy, so I tended to cook all on the lower end of the time-range, checking often.

The Pastas

The Winner: 76.25 pointsTNK912L
Tinkyada Pasta Joy
Brown Rice Spirals
$3.79/16oz
tinkyada.com

Sauce: Variety of olive oils, salt and pepper, fresh Parmesan cheese and fresh basil.

Boasts that it can stand “over-cooking”.  All-rice company in many varieties of pastas.  Cooks in 15 minutes.  210 calories and 4 grams of protein per serving.

This pasta won in both the FLAVOR and TEXTURE departments.  Made only of brown rice, it was “just what (one) would expect from a well-seasoned pasta” and tasted close to its wheat-counterpart.  Two of us considered it a lovely al-dente, while the other two thought it was slightly softer than a wheat al-dente but not at all grainy, as expected, or unpleasant.  It absorbed the flavors of the sauces rather well.  One of us wondered how it would do with a cream sauce.

fusilli

Second Place: 73.5 points
Andean Dream Quinoa/Rice Fusilli
$3.50/8oz at Whole Foods
andeandream.com

Sauce: Bergamot olive oil from O&Co and Hazelnut olive oil from La Tourangelle.

Uses organic quinoa grown in the Bolivian Andes, and organic brown.  The quinoa is fairly traded and employs 280 families in the Andean Valley.  Cooks in 13-15 minutes.  207 calories and 6 grams of protein per serving.

This was a pasta I had never tried before and was very pleased with.  It was a little bland on its own, but the closest to how a wheat-pasta would taste on its own.  The noodles didn’t clump after cooking, and 3 out of 4 judges thought it had a consistent al-dente texture (though some noodles fell apart – we’re not sure if this was pre- or post-cooking though). "The pasta created a nice blank canvas for the flavors" and "let the flavors shine".  We first used Bergamot oil with salt, pepper and sometimes cheese, and were floored by how well it took in the flavor.  Then the hazelnut oil brought it to another dimension.  This pasta REALLY takes on flavor well, winning in the SAUCE category.

Glutino Spagetti

Third Place: 65.75 points
Glutino Brown Rice Spaghetti
$3.00/10oz at Whole Foods
glutino.com

Sauce: Broccoli Rab cooked with olive oil and lots of garlic.

Company focused on bringing tasty alternatives specifically to those with gluten intolerance.  Cooks in 7-10 minutes.  200 calories and 5 grams of protein per serving.

Alone, we thought this pasta was a bit grainy and bland, though not bad, with a slightly sweet or citrusy aftertaste.  It clumped a LOT from cooking.  3 of us thought it was grainy, being too soft on the outside and harder on the inside, but the 4th thought it was a perfect spaghetti al-dente.  It didn’t capture the delicate flavors of the oils and vegetables at all and needed a lot of moisture.  It would probably do better with being put directly into a tomato-based sauce right after cooking.

Ancient Harvest Rotellea

Fourth Place: 52.75 points
Ancient Harvest Quinoa/Corn Rotelle
$2.69/8oz at my local store
quinoa.net

Sauce: Beef meat and green pepper sauce for the men and fresh tomato and red pepper sauce for the ladies.

First company to bring quinoa to the U.S.  Fairly traded and from sustainable sources. Cooks in 6-9 minutes.  205 calories and 4 grams of protein per serving.

This pasta had a nice flavor on its own, thanks to the corn/quinoa combination.  But the corn made it distinctively grainy and inconsistent in cooking – some noodles were perfectly soft while others were hard inside.  This is the one pasta that was also cooked to its fullest cooking time, and I pointed out that normally when I use this pasta I have to intentionally over-cook it to negate the inconsistency, therefore making it normally on the mushier side.  Though some of us thought it stood up to the heavier sauces well, it didn’t take on the flavors of the sauces or let its own flavor come through, and the texture was a distraction.  While I’m not a fan of this pasta, I do give props to the company for producing phenomenal quinoa on its own – both varieties are delicious.De Boles

Fifth Place: 46.25 points
DeBoles Rice/Quinoa/Amaranth Penne
$2.99/8oz at my local store
deboles.com

Sauce: sauteed summer squash, onions and garlic in olive oil.

Multi-grain powerhouse combo of quinoa and amaranth. Cooks in 5-minutes.  200 calories and 5 grams of protein per serving.

I was most excited to try this brand and we were all extremely disappointed.  On its own it was “bland, but also tasted more like trees.  The type of taste people fear when they hear ‘healthy’”, and had a “crunchy, almost woodsy taste, but not in a bad way”.  The noodles so fell apart while cooking, it was hard to find whole pieces of penne.  They shredded on our forks, and it was impossible to pick up with any sauce or vegetables.  The only “saving grace” was adding the squash and sauce, when the pasta “got out of the way” and lost the “natural food aura”.

Super Bowl Chili

Full disclosure – I have no idea who is in the Super Bowl this year.  I rarely ever know who’s playing. I don’t quite understand football.  I mean, I get it, I understand the rules and all.  But huge men running at each other, the purpose to either knock another down, not get knocked down, or catch a ball without getting piled upon?  Maybe it’s the fact that I’m 5′ 2″.  I can hardly see on top of my fridge.  When I’m around big men I suddenly feel like my neck is really thin.  Just saying.

But, I LOVE the Super Bowl!  Why?  Because it’s the one day a year I make Super Bowl Chili.  Literally, I don’t let myself make it any other time.  It’s a recipe I’ve adapted from a friend, and it’s delicious.  Warm, filling, gluten-free and vegetarian-optional.

I don’t have a picture of it, but you know what chili looks like, right?

Go team.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 lbs. sirloin steak, cubed (to make vegetarian, cube 4 packages of tempeh and follow directions as if cooking steak)
  • 6 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 green zucchini, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 orange or yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 large can Italian stewed tomatoes
  • 1 lb plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp each cumin, basil, paprika, chili powder and oregano
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup fresh dill, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 tsps salt
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
  • 1 can dark kidney beans
  • 1 can dried chickpeas
  • 1 can white beans
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • Chopped scallions, greens and whites
  • hard bread of choice
  • shredded Manchego cheese

Directions

  • Heat the olive oil in a large (preferably cast iron) pot, add onions and garlic, cook for 4 minutes
  • Add steak and saute till browned on all sides
  • Add zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, all fresh and dried seasonings.  Cook for at least 30 minutes.
  • Add beans and lemon juice.  Cook for another 30 minutes.
  • Keep on low until ready to serve.
  • Serve with chopped scallions, shredded cheese, hard bread or sour cream if desired.
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