meatless monday

Curried Acorn Squash Soup

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As I’m trying desperately to stay warm this winter, I’ve managed to find ways to appreciate the season: via root vegetables, leafy greens and citrus! The winter’s most plentiful produce has made its way into many of my meals, and this weekend, my trip to the Union Square Farmers Market resulted in this hearty, comforting pot of curried acorn squash soup. I must admit, I was looking for butternut squash, but when the only thing I could find was acorn, I seized the moment and the end product left me pleasantly surprised (I didn’t know how sweet acorn squash could be!). You can tweak this recipe as much as you like, whether its changing up the type of apple, squash, seasoning, or adding other winter ingredients like leeks or parsnips. The pos-soup-bilities are endless!

INGREDIENTS

1 4-lb acorn squash

1 large carrot, peeled and chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

1 small yellow onion, chopped

1 tart apple, peeled and chopped

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp curry powder

salt and pepper

4 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable stock

DIRECTIONS 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rinse squash and poke various holes in the skin using a fork. Bake squash for 45 minutes to an hour, until tender.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the carrots and celery and saute until they begin to soften, about 7 minutes. Add the onion, apple, curry powder, salt and pepper and cook until everything is tender, about 10 minutes more. Add the stock and lower the heat until the squash is cooked through.

Once the squash is soft and cool enough to handle, peel the skin and break into pieces. Add the squash to the soup and simmer for about 5 minutes more.

Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender until smooth. Add any additional salt and pepper if necessary.

The soup will keep up to a week and freezes wonderfully!

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A Stick-to-Your-Ribs Meatless Monday

As an avid supporter of Meatless Monday (and recently almost every other day of the week), I am always looking for new vegetarian dishes to cook to keep my meals interesting. With the sudden decline in temperature here in DC, I decided it would be a perfect time to make two of my favorite winter dishes, chili and cornbread.

I love making chili because you can literally throw just about anything into it and it’ll taste good (re: pumpkin chili). I wanted a classic white bean recipe for the beginning of winter, though, so I consulted my favorite iPhone app, Epicurious. I have tweaked the recipe a little to account for spiciness and and flavor.

INGREDIENTS

1 tbsp olive oil

2 medium onions, chopped

1 1/2 tsp dried oregano

2 tsp ground cumin

1/4 cup chili powder

2 bay leaves

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes

3 cups vegetable broth

1 8-ounce can crushed tomatoes

3 15-ounce cans white beans, rinsed and drained

DIRECTIONS

Heat oil in a large, heavy soup pot over medium heat. Add onions and sautee until light brown and tender, about 10 minutes. Add oregano and cumin and stir until well combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chili powder, bay leaves, salt and cinnamon. Add tomatoes with their juices, breaking them up with the back of a wooden spoon. Mix in broth and tomato sauce. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to a simmer and continue to cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add beans to chili and simmer about 10 minutes longer, until flavors blend. Discard bay leaves. Serve with shredded cheddar cheese, greek yogurt and chopped tomatoes or salsa (my three chili faves).

I’m literally obsessed with cornbread. This Bon Appetit- inspired recipe is a no-brainer.

INGREDIENTS

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1 cup unbleached all purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 tbs baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup buttermilk

1 large egg

5 tbs unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled

3/4 cup canned corn

1 small jalapeno pepper, seeds removed and diced

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit. Mix cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into medium bowl. Whisk buttermilk and egg in another medium bowl, then whisk in melted butter. Add buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients and stir until just incorporated. Fold in corn and jalapenos. Divide batter equally among 12 greased muffin cups and bake for about 15 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool and serve with chili.

 

SerenDIPity

Since moving back to DC for a final year at GW, I have already deemed this the best year yet. I live in an amazing apartment with three amazing girls, but the best part about that is how their love of food is almost as strong as mine. We spent our first Sunday at one of my favorite DC restaurants, Co Co Sala, and we’ve been cooking some delicious gourmet meals every week. But, what I must say has been the most important element to our foodie repertoire is our undying love of dips. Salsa, guacamole, spinach artichoke; you name it, we’ve probably gone through at least a jar and have loved every minute of it.

Living a block away from Trader Joes gives my roommates and I ample opportunities to go grocery shopping and discover new products, even if just by chance, which is what our newest obsession was. I must admit, I was not present to witness the serendipity that occurred when Jill and Kate found this beautiful eggplant garlic spread, but the minute they brought it home and served it to me with pita chips, I was in pure heaven.

My favorite part about this spread is its versatility. We dip chips, rice cakes, carrots, and just about anything with a crunch into it. We even used it in place of marinara sauce on pizza last week. Now that’s what I call pizza.

The ingredients in the dip are simple: eggplant, peppers, tomato concentrate, sunflower oil, garlic, sugar, salt, fefferoni peppers. That’s it. No preservatives or chemicals with names I can’t spell, let alone pronounce. But the flavor is so rich and complex. Hearty, roasted eggplant is most prevalent, with sweet undertones of tomato and a hint of spice from the peppers. The spread is rich without being overbearing, and it coats your mouth with flavor, not tomato paste. If you live within 60 miles of a Trader Joe’s, I highly suggest you leave right now and go find this dip, before it’s off the shelves for good.

Now don’t worry; I’m not going to finish this blog post and leave you empty handed. Besides using this dip on pizza I have also been obsessively spreading it on to sandwiches, and my sandwich of choice is perfect for a Meatless Monday lunch. The layers of flavor and texture are complex and diverse. Creamy eggplant dip is countered with peppery arugula, crunchy cucumber and salty feta cheese, all encompassed by toasty pita bread. It is just filling enough to get you through the rest of everyone’s least favorite day of the week. And, oh yeah, its freaking delicious! Here’s the recipe for my Mediterranean Pita Sandwich:

INGREDIENTS

1 whole wheat pita pocket, halved and toasted

2 tbs Trader Joe’s Eggplant Garlic Spread

2 slices vine ripe tomato

4 slices English cucumber

1 tbs feta cheese

small handful baby arugula

DIRECTIONS

Spread one tablespoon of eggplant spread on each side of the toasted pita. On one half, layer the arugula, followed by the tomato, the cucumber and the feta cheese. Top with the other half of the pita and enjoy immediately!

Product Review: Archer Farms Chile Lime Grilling Sauce

Let’s rewind about 5 months ago. I was applying to summer internships in the food/journalism field, and one particular job asked me to submit a few food writing samples, including a product review. I began to panic, because I had never written a product review and was in Sevilla, unable blog about anything relevant to what I had been asked.

Now, fast forward to about a month ago, when I started my internship at Every Day with Rachael Ray Magazine. One of the benefits of working at a magazine is all the free stuff you get when companies want you to feature their product. My editor has been very generous with sharing her freebies with me, including a bottle of grilling sauce by Archer Farms. At first, I was hesitant to accept the sauce because I do not have a grill and couldn’t see myself utilizing it. But then, I began to think back to my lack of product reviews on my blog and figured this could be the perfect opportunity. I’ve already used the sauce twice as a marinade for both tofu and chicken, and I want to share with you the outcome.

I brought the grilling sauce home on a Monday, meaning it was Meatless Monday, and opted to use it as a marinade on tofu for stir fry. First, I cut the tofu into cubes and patted them dry to get rid of most of the water (tofu is like a sponge- it loves to hold on to water).

Then I let it marinate in the grilling sauce for about half an hour. It was about a quarter block of tofu and 4 tablespoons of marinade.

Meanwhile,I chopped up some peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, broccoli and corn and began to sauté them in olive oil.

I added the tofu to the hot pan and let the sauce caramelize on the cubes.

After the tofu and veggies had been cooked through, I added a little more sauce for flavor and ate it piping hot (I was starving)!

The chile lime sauce has a bit of a tangy kick (hence the name, chile lime) and its an interesting sensation eating stir fry, expecting something salty and savory, and tasting something sweet and acidic. The tofu didn’t really suck up the flavor as much as I had wanted; maybe next time I will let it marinate for longer.

A few days later, I decided to try the sauce as a marinade on chicken. This time, I let the chicken marinate for two hours. I used 4 chicken breast tenders in 4 tablespoons of sauce. Again, I sauteed the chicken and let the sauce caramelize.

I ate the chicken hot and cold, and my results were much  more successful. The sauce really soaked into the chicken, keeping it moist, spicy and flavorful. The flavors were a great accent to rice and black beans, and it really tasted like an authentic south American dish. It was such an easy and unique way to flavor your average chicken breast, and I would definitely use it again, even to impress my friends!

Meatless Monday is My New Favorite Day of the Week

Yes, I am one of those converted foodies who has begun partaking in the global movement to improve not only my own health but also the health of our beautiful Mother Earth, Meatless Monday. In fact, I have expanded my anti-meat eating and have tried to cut all red and processed meats out of my diet, and order tofu at any opportunity that comes my way. Don’t worry! I’m not going all crazy vegan or vegetarian on you- I still love chicken, turkey and seafood. I guess you can call me a ‘flexitarian.’ My pistachio crusted tofu was created after reading about it on the Village Voice on the menu at Bird Bath Bakery in New York City. I thought, “hmm, well I don’t live anywhere near there but I can definitely recreate that dish.” And a miracle was born! This tofu is so delicious and so easy; I crave it during the week, anxiously awaiting the next Monday so I have an excuse to eat it. But really, who needs an excuse to eat something so healthful and delicious?

Ingredients (makes 2-3 servings)

1 block firm tofu, cut into 8 rectangles

¼ cup low sodium soy or teriyaki sauce

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

1/3 cup shelled unsalted pistachios

¼ cup panko bread crumbs

1 tbsp chopped rosemary

Salt and pepper

Directions

Line a cookie sheet with tinfoil and preheat an oven to 425 degrees. Pat the tofu dry with a paper towel. Try to remove as much moisture from the tofu as possible, as dry tofu absorbs more liquid and more flavors! Mix the soy or teriyaki sauce with the Dijon mustard in a bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss the tofu in the marinade and let sit for 15 minutes.

Remove the tofu and pat off any extra liquid with a paper towel. In a food processor, combine pistachios, panko, rosemary and salt and pepper. Blend until the mixture resembles the texture of bread crumbs. Empty mixture onto a plate or pie tin and dredge each piece of tofu until every side is completely covered.

(yes, I used a coffee filter to pat down the tofu… we had no paper towels!)

Spread tofu on baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, turning it once halfway through. Tofu should be a little brown and crispy, and warm to the touch. Serve with stir fried vegetables, rice or salad.

Let me get my camera… oh, wait…

Everybody has that one friend who can be counted on to bring their camera out with them. No matter where you go, they are bound to whip out the small little metallic box and snap a photo of you, or ask a complete stranger to take one of the group. You know who I’m talking about in your group of friends, don’t you? Well, in my group of friends, I’m that person. “Lauren, get your camera out” is a phrase I hear all too often. Well, guess what, friends?! My camera is broken!!! Cry all you want, but I’m the one who really should be crying. I didn’t break it or drop it, and it is being replaced (it is at the camera doctor being fixed as we speak. Luckily, I bought insurance for my baby after five previous camera catastrophes. Yep, five.). I’m not upset that I can’t take pictures during a night out with the girls or at a cool summer concert, because having an internship this summer has basically prevented me from doing all the above. I’m upset because I can’t visually share all of my culinary creations that have taken place within the last week! For the first few weeks of summer, I was living in a complete hell hole. The blinds didn’t work, the sun woke me up at the crack of dawn, the bathroom managed to heat up to about 90 degrees, and, oh yeah, I had no kitchen. Trader Joe’s prepared meals were my BFF. Not that I really mind them, I’m just thankful to get away from thousands of grams of salt per serving and being able to cook again! But pack to my point, I haven’t been able to do my food justice with a camera phone, and I am not too accepting of a mediocre photo, especially that of food. So yes, I have been cooking and baking and life is back to normal. Unfortunately, I cannot share it will all you readers (yes, I know there are thousands of you out there). But if you’re wondering what I’ve been filling my tummy with, check out these links- photos included- and maybe try one for yourself! I’ve been really quite pleased with all of the baked goods, and there will be plenty more to come throughout summer.  (Insert cutesy photo here… I cry)

The most ridiculous Kitchen Sink Cookies of all time

Chocolate crinkle cookies

Red velvet cake with cream cheese- mascarpone frosting (I made mini cupcakes. They were adorable)

Meatless Monday creamy lemon pasta with zucchini and tomatoes (I added broccoli)

Mixed berry and rhubarb jam

I also had this amazing jar of Tikka Masala sauce that I was using with cauliflower, zucchini, chicken and brown basmati rice but it fell out of my fridge and shattered and I cried. Not really. I’m just being dramatic (if you couldn’t tell).

Nom nom nom nom nom

Sigh. Only four more weeks to go!