Recipe: Savory Stuffed Acorn Squash

I can’t believe that it’s the middle of November and I haven’t waxed poetic about fall yet.  I haven’t even extolled the beauty of Portland this time of year or praised the glorious weather we’ve been having, because we absolutely have been having the most glorious season.

Filled Squash Half on plate with broccolini

We’re known for our rain and gray skies, of course, but they’ve been few and far between the last couple of months.  It’s been perfect.  Perfect for running and strolling.  Perfect for sightseeing and adventuring.  Perfect for autumnal baking and for hard apple ciders enjoyed while firing up the oven for a good meal.

As cheesy as it may sound, I frequently find myself being struck by the beauty of the nature that lies right outside my door.  Very often these last few weeks, I have been out on a seemingly ordinary run only to turn a street corner or look up from making sure I don’t trip over fallen branches and I have felt taken aback by just how gorgeous it all is.  And, let me tell you, there’s nothing like a breathtaking view to rejuvenate tired legs.

Whole Squash

I know that it’s common for many people to think of spring as a season of rejuvenation and hope, but I think differently.  For me, it’s that magical time between mid-September and December, when cooler temperatures refresh me and warm foods nourish me.  It is this time of year when I feel the most in touch with my own sense of optimism, accomplishment, hope, and gratitude.  I hope this dish conveys even a bit of that to you.

Stuffed squash recipes abound, but what makes this one a bit different for me is its straightforward savory nature.  Rather than playing up the sweetness of the squash with fruit or similar ingredients, I’ve countered it with a bit of spice and bundles of warm, comforting flavors.  It is a meal best enjoyed with a view of the leaves and the laughter of others.  A crackling fire and a bottle of wine wouldn’t hurt, either.

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Savory Stuffed Acorn Squash Filled Squash Halves

Serves 4

A Move Eat Create Original Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 acorn squash, halved lengthwise, seeds removed
  • 1 cup uncooked brown wild rice mix
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ tblspn olive oil + extra for brushing squash
  • ½ white onion, diced
  • 1 medium leek, white part only, sliced thin
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bell peppers, diced
  • ½ cup diced parsnips (or other root vegetable)
  • ½ tspn each salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes
  • 1 tspn each dried oregano and basil
  • Cayenne pepper (optional for those that like a little bit of heat)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place squash (cut side down) on a baking sheet lightly coated with cooking spray or oil and bake for 30 minutes.
  2. Place rice in a small pot with the water.  Cover and bring to a boil over high heat.  Once boiling, reduce to a low simmer and continue cooking, covered and undisturbed, for approximately 30 minutes or until all water is absorbed.  When water is absorbed, turn off heat and let rice sit for 10-15 minutes before uncovering and fluffing with a fork.
  3. Warm ½ tblspn olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat.  Add onion and leek.  Saute for 5-7 minutes, until they are translucent.
  4. Add garlic, bell peppers, parsnips, herbs, and spices to the pan.  Stir well and continue to cook for 5-7 minutes, until all vegetables have softened.
  5. Turn off heat.  Stir cooked rice into the vegetable mixture and toss to combine well.  Taste for seasoning.
  6. After the squash halves have cooked for 30 minutes, flip them over on the baking sheet.  Brush the flesh lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with cayenne pepper, if using.  Spoon prepared rice and vegetable filling into the squash generously.  Return filled squash to the oven and bake for an additional 15 minutes.

Recipe: Vegan Shepherd’s Pie (and a confession)

I have something very important to own up to here today.

Are you ready for it?

I don’t understand the full-on pumpkin obsession that is happening right now.

I just don’t.

in skillet with handle - edited

As a foodie, a blogger, and a huge fan of fall, I feel a little bad about this.  I mean, anyone who has browsed through a blogroll lately, walked past a bakery or coffee shop, or even taken a trip to the grocery store has surely seen the pumpkin explosion that is taking over the food world.

Pumpkin is a big deal, y’all.  And, I just don’t get it.

It’s fine, I guess.  It’s alright. It’s O.K.   But, honestly, it’s not a flavor that I get excited about.  I think my pumpkin gene never fully developed.  I get excited about other fall flavors, namely apple, ginger, nutmeg, vanilla, and cinnamon.  I go nuts for steaming bowls of soup, rich broths, and earthy aromas.  I’m crazy about casseroles, root vegetables, and pots of warm chili.  But, pumpkin?

Eh.

I could take it or leave it.

cooking - edited

I realize I probably just lost a lot of cred with you all, but in the spirit of full disclosure, I felt it needed to be said.

In that vain, I hope you enjoy this dish.  It is perfect for a chilly autumn evening, eaten in a setting where you feel comfortable and cozy, in the company of those you’re most at home with.  And with nary a pumpkin in sight.

For those who are disappointed with me and think I’m missing out, don’t worry . . . I’ll probably cave in and bake some pumpkin bread soon.

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Vegan Shepherd’s Pie bowl - edited

Tweaked just a smidge from the wonderful Fat Free Vegan Kitchen

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

  •  2 lbs potatoes (I used red), cubed (peeled or unpeeled – it’s up to you)
  • ½ cup soy milk creamer
  • 1 tblspn Earth Balance (or oil or butter)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 ribs celery, diced
  • 8 oz cremini mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 cups green beans, chopped into ½ inch pieces (I used frozen)
  • 2 cups packed spinach, chopped
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1-2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 tblspn Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (could sub soy sauce or tamari)
  • 1 tblspn red miso
  • 1 tblspn fresh thyme (or 1 tspn dried)
  • 1 tblspn fresh rosemary, minced (or 1 tspn dried)
  • 1 tspn fresh oregano (or ½ tspn dried)
  • ¼ tspn dried, ground sage
  • 1 1/2 tblspns corn starch
  • 2 tblspns water
  • Salt & pepper

Directions:

  1. Prepare the potatoes by boiling them in a large pot of salted water until tender, about 15 minutes.  When tender, drain and toss into a large bowl (if using a hand mixer/masher) or the bowl of a stand mixer.  Add soy milk and Earth Balance and sprinkle with a generous amount of salt and pepper.  Mix/mash until soft and creamy.  Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, spray a large cast iron skillet or large sauté pan with cooking spray and warm over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and cook until they are soft and begin to brown.  Add the garlic, carrots, celery, and mushrooms to the skillet and cook, stirring regularly, about 5 minutes longer.
  3. Next, add the vegetable broth, Bragg’s, miso, kidney beans, green beans, and herbs.  Bring the broth up to a low boil and then reduce heat.  Simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until all vegetables are tender and cooked through.
  4. Add the spinach to the skillet and mix well.  Let the spinach wilt over the heat for 2-3 minutes.  Finally, mix together the corn starch with the 2 tablespoons water until smooth and stir into the skillet.  Cook for a few minutes longer, until the sauce has thickened up a bit.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Remove from heat and turn on your broiler to high.  If you used a cast iron skillet, leave the vegetables in the skillet at this point and spoon the mashed potatoes evenly onto the top.  If you used another sauté pan, transfer the vegetables into an oven-safe baking dish and then continue on by spooning the mashed potatoes onto the top.    Place skillet or dish under the broiler for approximately 5 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Recipe: Bundt Cake with Apples and Fall Spices

I am such a sucker for fall baked goods.  Cinnamon.  Vanilla.  Warm spices.  Apples.  My stomach gets all rumbly just thinking about these flavors.  I mean, seriously folks, throw some cinnamon-vanilla anything at me and I’ll be your friend.

Go ahead.

Try it.

Please.

This cake definitely satisfies my fall-flavor lust.  The spices are warm and comforting and the texture is dense, but soft and studded with bits of apples.  You could certainly put a glaze or icing on this cake if you like, as the original inspiration recipe does, but I didn’t particularly feel like it needed it to suit my tastes.  I ate it just as it with a lovely dusting of powdered sugar on top and thought it hit the right note.  I do wish I had another slice left, because I suspect that a drizzle of honey or agave drizzled on individual portions would actually be quite delicious, too.

I guess I’ll have to make another one to test that theory.

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Bundt Cake with Fall Spices and Bananas

Adapted from Averie Cooks

Makes one cake

 

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup coconut spread/oil or Earth Balance, melted (or butter, if you like)
  • ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 6 oz non-fat plain Greek yogurt (I used Fage)
  • 2 tblspns egg replacer + 6 tblspns water (or 2 large eggs, if you prefer)
  • ½ cup turbinado/raw sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tblspn vanilla extract
  • ½ tspn cinnamon
  • ¼ tspn ground ginger
  • ¼ tspn pumpkin pie spice
  • ¼ tspn nutmeg
  • 1/8 tspn ground cloves (optional)
  • 2 med-large mashed ripe bananas
  • 1 medium apple, diced (I used a semi-tart green variety)
  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 ½ tspn baking soda
  • ½ tspn salt
  • Powdered sugar for dusting

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Coat bundt pan with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt.  Toss with a whisk or fork until well combined.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine melted coconut spread/oil (or Earth Balance or butter), applesauce, yogurt, egg replacer with water, sugars, vanilla extract and all spices.  Whisk all these ingredients until smooth and well-combined.  Stir in mashed bananas and follow by gently stirring in the diced apples.
  4. Create a well in the center of the dry mixture.  Pour wet ingredient into the well and stir just until all ingredients are incorporated.
  5. Pour batter into your prepared bundt pan.  Bake for approximately 40-43 minutes, until golden and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  6. Allow to cool in pan for 5 minutes.  Invert and remove cake to cool completely on a wire rack.
  7. Dust with powdered sugar (I used a  vegan version) if you like.