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Carrot-Zucchini Bread

19 Aug

Thank you Alice for the amazing tip on the easiest apple pie ever! I now have a packet of puff pastry in my freezer for those last minute dessert needs.

So we’ve explored quite a few fruit desserts recently, but how about a sweet vegetable bread?

1-Carrot Zucchini Bread with Ginger 055

Being the end of summer here in Minnesota everyone has an overabundance of zucchini from their gardens, so why not make bread with it?! This recipe from Leite’s Culinaria intrigued me because of the addition of carrots and candied ginger to a basic zucchini bread recipe. Yum!

Carrots & Zucchini

I grated the zucchini and carrots in my greatly loved, ancient but usable food processor.

grate!

They can very easily be grated with a hand grater as well. Just take care with your knuckles!

1-Carrot Zucchini Bread with Ginger 016

See, so pretty!

My friend and sous chef Karen measured out all the dry ingredients.

dry ingredients

We got to try the candied ginger, which was delicious and quite expensive. After a bit of poking around, I think I might try to make my own as it doesn’t look too difficult to do. David Lebovitz has a lovely recipe that I mean to try shortly.

candied ginger

I mixed the eggs in the mixer until they were frothy,

eggs

then added sugar, oil and vanilla. Once they were all well combined

eggs and sugar

I tossed in the shredded veggies and mixed those in as well.

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At that point the dry ingredients were tossed in all at once and stirred together just until combined.

add dry to wet

While I was mixing and combining, Karen had gotten a loaf pan and a muffin pan all ready for the batter by greasing them with spray oil.

1-Carrot Zucchini Bread with Ginger 048

We filled the baking pans and into the oven they went.

symmetrical

Because the recipe gave baking directions for the loaf but not the muffins, I improvised and checked the muffins at 30 mins. They were perfectly done.

funfetti

They looked like party muffins with the green and orange flecks and then every once in a while there was a spicy chunk of candied ginger to liven things up.

The loaf baked for a full hour at 325°F/162°C.

Carrot Zucchini Bread with Ginger loaf

It was quite delicious plain, but slathered with butter is even better.

Carrot Zucchini Bread with Ginger

I experimented with the zucchini loaf and some sharp cheddar in trying to make a grilled cheese sandwich. It was quite tasty, but the slices of the bread should be very thin to allow the cheese to melt before the bread starts to burn.

Carrot Zucchini Bread grilled cheese

CARROT-ZUCCHINI BREAD RECIPE
via Leite’s Culinaria
Makes two loaves or 24 muffins

INGREDIENTS
Nonstick cooking spray
3 cups sifted unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup minced candied ginger
3 large eggs
1 cup canola oil
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup carrots, peeled and grated
1 cup zucchini, grated

DIRECTIONS
1. Preheat the oven to 325°F (162°C). Coat two loaf pans with nonstick cooking spray or butter. You could also make them in two muffin tins.
2. Sift together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, and baking powder in a medium bowl. Stir in the salt and candied ginger.
3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until light and foamy. Add the canola oil, sugar, and vanilla, whisking vigorously until the sugar dissolves. Whisk in the carrots and zucchini.
4. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture all at once and stir with a wooden spoon just until blended. Divide the batter evenly between the pans.
5. Bake until the zucchini bread is well risen and firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour for a loaf pan or 30 minutes for muffin tins. Let the zucchini bread cool in the pans on a rack for 10 minutes, then invert them and finish cooling them right side up on the rack. Of course, a thin slice for the cook while the loaves are warm isn’t out of the question.

Chocolate Strawberry Nutella Cake

15 Jul

Mmmmmm, cake is a good direction in which to take this series of blog posts. I’m glad Alice posted that recipe for the Lemon Syrup Cake…I think she has just introduced me to my new favorite cake.

On the subject of rich cakes, how about this one??

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I spotted this cake on Pioneer Woman’s blog. I follow her on Facebook and she posted such a tantalizing photo that looked so interesting that I was compelled to try it. I’ve made it a few times now. That’s how you know it’s good.

The first time I made it, my friend Karen and I didn’t want to use strawberries, so we went ahead and swapped them out for cherries. It was a really good choice.

ramekins_cherry

Also, I thought it might be interesting to mix it up and make individual desserts, so we baked those in ramekins. Also a good choice as the cakes were a little gooey in the middle and altogether quite delicious.

The next time I made it was for my little friend’s birthday.

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I used strawberries as the original recipe suggests.

We melted the butter, added the cocoa and boiling water

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Isn’t that pretty??

Mixed together the dry ingredients, then poured the melted chocolate into the bowl while mixing it on low.

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Word to the wise…do as I say and not as I do. I spilled a significant amount of the hot chocolate mixture while attempting to pour it straight from the pan into the mixer.

After mixing together the liquid ingredients,

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pour it into the chocolate mixture and voila!

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Prepare the cake pans by lining them with rounds of baking paper and spraying them with non-stick cooking spray. Then pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake.

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Alternately, grease some ramekins and fill them 3/4 full of batter. This recipe would make at least 12 ramekins full of cake.

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Bake the cakes. When they are finished, let them cool before turning the large cake rounds out onto a cooling rack.

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Peel the parchment paper off the back of the cake before cooling on the rack.

The individual cakes don’t need turning out. You can build the cake right in the cute little baking dish.

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While the cakes are cooling, whisk up some whipping cream and confectioners sugar in the mixer.

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The whipped cream was quite a hit with the helpers.

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Here’s the fun part – building the cakes!

building the cake

First a layer of Nutella on the cake

Nutella

Topped with a nice dollop of whipped cream

whipped cream

Then add the berries

strawberries

Add the second cake and repeat.

For the individual cakes it’s even easier. Keep the cakes in their baking dishes, add the layer of Nutella

ramekins_Nutella

ramekins_covered

Yum!

Top with a generous dollop of whipped cream and the berries.

ramekins_final

Done! Now enjoy!

Chocolate Strawberry Nutella Cake
by the Pioneer Woman

Ingredients

FOR THE CAKE:
2 sticks butter
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 cup boiling water
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 cup Nutella

FOR THE FRUIT:
2 pints strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

FOR THE WHIPPED CREAM:
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Method:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 round baking pans with parchment, then spray the parchment with baking spray.
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Add the cocoa and stir it until smooth. Pour in the boiling water, let the mixture bubble up for 20 seconds or so, then turn it off and set it aside.
In a measuring pitcher or bowl, mix together the buttermilk, baking soda, eggs, and vanilla. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, mix together the sugar, flour, and salt. Stir in the hot chocolate mixture, stirring gently until it’s halfway combined and less hot. Pour in the buttermilk mixture and continue stirring gently until the batter is all combined.
Pour the batter into the pans and bake them for 17-20 minute, until they’re just set. Remove them from the pans and set them aside to cool completely.
B’s option: For ramekin cakes, spray the ramekins with baking spray and fill them 3/4 full of batter. Bake for 15 minutes and check with a toothpick to see if the cake is fully baked.
Meanwhile, prepare the strawberries by stirring them with the sugar and the vanilla. Let them macerate for 15 minutes, then drain off the excess juice.
B’s option: I used the strawberries without any vanilla or sugar, however, I did macerate the cherries for that cake. The cherries would also be good soaked in an almond liqueur for more a grown up treat.
Whip the cream with the powdered sugar.
To assemble, turn one layer upside down on a serving platter. Spread half the Nutella all over the surface. Spread on half the whipped cream and top with half the strawberries. Place the other layer upside down on top and repeat with the rest of the Nutella, whipped cream, and strawberries. Keep chilled until serving. Cut with a serrated knife!
B’s option: For the ramekin cakes, leave them in the baking dish, spread them with a layer of Nutella, top with a dollop of whipped cream, then the fruit. Serve individually, with a spoon.

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday, Cambria. I hope your wish came true!!

Roasted Salmon

17 Jun

I’ve been traveling for work quite a bit recently. After weeks on end of eating fancy restaurant food, there’s nothing I love more than a tasty, simple home made dish. That lamb salad of Alice’s looked so very good! That will be on my menu as soon as I get home to my kitchen.

Salmon is one of my favorite, easy, go-to dishes for a quick weeknight meal. It’s a quick, easy way to get some good healthy protein that is heart-healthy and it’s quite versatile. I eat it year round, with warm grains in the winter and with or atop salad in the summer.

plated salmon

The easiest way to cook salmon is to top with your seasonings of choice, wrap it in aluminum foil and bake it.

squeeze of lemon

Lemon juice pairs very well with fish of any kind, so I always use lemon or sometimes lime juice.

Sprinkle it with salt and pepper…

salted and peppered

…and a nice layer of lemon slices atop for an extra lemony zing.

lemony goodness

Then wrap the foil around the fish

foil

Put it in the oven for 20-30 minutes and voila!

voila

I paired the roasted  salmon with a fresh spinach salad and a rice/lentil mixture that I had made.

summer dinner

It was so good! And the next day I had a large spinach salad with chunks of salmon, tossed with a balsamic vinaigrette. The leftover salmon would also be delicious mixed with cream cheese and spread on crackers or rye bread.

Roasted Salmon
Makes 2 servings

1 large salmon fillet
1 lemon
salt & pepper

Cut a lemon in half, slice a few slices for the top of the salmon and save half for squeezing over the top.

Place the salmon fillet on a piece of aluminum foil in a baking pan. Squeeze the reserved lemon over the top and add salt and pepper to taste.

Wrap the fish in the foil and place in the oven at 375 F for 15-20 minutes. After 15 minutes, you may want to check the fish, just open up the foil packet and flake it with a fork to see if it is cooked all the way through. If it flakes easily and the fish is opaque, then it’s done. If not, put it back in the oven for a few more minutes then check it again. My fillet was quite thin, so it didn’t take very long to roast. When it’s fully cooked, remove it from the foil and perch it atop a mound of rice or a salad and eat.

There are quite a few flavor options you can choose for seasoning your salmon. You can add fresh dill or tarragon, a fresh ginger/soy sauce/scallions mixture or you can try it with Dijon mustard and some honey or even chopped garlic, mustard and mayo. Get creative and enjoy it!

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing

10 May

That sweet potato cake that Alice made looked so good. I love cakes and breads made with vegetables such as zucchini bread, pumpkin pie or carrot cake. It’s that interesting mix of the vegetables you are used to eating as a savory dish, but mixed with sugar, butter and flour they become a delicious sweet treat.

Carrot cake is my specialty. I make it quite often and as a three-layer cake, it’s quite a special and sophisticated treat with the great spices and the tender crumb.

Carrot Cake

Last weekend, I had my friend Brittany and her two girls, Cambria and June come by for a fun sleepover at my house. After a raucous time in the pool, then a good night’s sleep, the girls helped me make a carrot cake. Let me tell you, if you ever need some great entertainment, have two little girls help you bake.

Carrot Cake helpers

We trimmed and shredded the carrots. I don’t ever bother peeling the carrots I use for carrot cake. I just wash them, trim the ends off and shred them in my trusty old (emphasis on the old) food processor.

shredding carrots

We carefully measured our ingredients into the mixer

ingredients

…paying special attention to the sugar.

sugar

After all the cake ingredients were added, we scooped the shredded carrots into the mixer. As you can see, we were quite hands on with our baking.

hands on baking

I neglected to get a photo of the baking pans that Brittany very carefully greased and lined with rounds of parchment paper for me, but here’s what they looked like filled with the cake batter.

Carrot Cake in pans

While the cakes were in the oven, we mixed up everyone’s favorite part of the cake – the cream cheese icing! It’s hard to go wrong with a beautifully creamy sweet filling and topping for this moist layer cake. It’s made up of four ingredients that you cream together in a mixer.

the icing!

We just tossed all the ingredients into the mixing bowl and started mixing. As you can see below, we had quite the poof of powdered sugar that got all over the counter. If you aren’t interested in having your entire kitchen covered in a very fine layer of sugar, you may want to mix up the cream cheese, butter and vanilla FIRST, then add the powdered sugar very slowly.

creamy icing

The next step, of course, is to taste the icing. Which my helpers were VERY happy to take care of for me.

tasters

helper!

In the meantime, the cakes were finished. They made my house smelled SO GOOD!!

cooling rack

After they cooled in the pans for about fifteen minutes, I turned them out onto a cooling rack until they were completely cool. Then began assembling the cake.

one...

As easily as…

one and done

one…

second layer

…two…

three layers

…three…

fully iced

…and voila!

carrot cake cut

cake!

Of course cake is always best shared with a friend. On the patio. On a nice day.

cake!

You can serve it immediately or put it together a day ahead of time and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight for maximum moistness.

It won’t stick around for long.

gone!

Alice?

TRIPLE-LAYER CARROT CAKE WITH CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
From Bon Apetit

Cake
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
4 large eggs
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 cups finely grated peeled carrots (about 1 pound)
(optional) 1/2 cup chopped pecans (about 1/2 ounce)
(optional) 1/2 cup raisins

Frosting
4 cups powdered sugar
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 teaspoons vanilla extract

For cake:
Preheat oven to 325°F. Lightly grease three 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides. Line bottom of pans with waxed or parchment paper. Lightly grease waxed paper. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and vegetable oil in bowl until combined. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg into sugar and oil mixture. Stir in carrots, chopped pecans and raisins, if using.

Pour batter into prepared pans, dividing equally. Bake until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and cakes begin to pull away from sides of pans, about 45 minutes. Cool in pans on racks 10-15 minutes. Turn out cakes onto racks and cool completely. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap tightly in plastic and store at room temperature.)

For frosting:
Using electric mixer, beat all ingredients in medium bowl until smooth and creamy.

Place 1 cake layer on platter. Spread with 3/4 cup frosting. Top with another cake layer. Spread with 3/4 cup frosting. Top with remaining cake layer. Using icing spatula, spread remaining frosting in decorative swirls over sides and top of cake. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead. Cover with cake dome and refrigerate.) Serve cake cold or at room temperature.

Sweet Potato Hash

16 Apr

I was fortunate enough to be at Alice’s house for the last post – that quinoa and sweet potato combination was really quite tasty. It was so fun to be cooking in Alice’s kitchen on the other side of the world from my house, working together on a dish for the blog that we usually co-author from so far away.

I enjoyed her sweet potato dish so much that I decided to make a sweet potato  hash

1-Sweet Potato Hash 022

Hash is one of my favorite weekend dishes, I usually use leftover potatoes, vegetables and whatever meat I may have left over (see the Carnitas Hash). Topped with a poached egg, it makes for a delicious meal and is never the same dish twice. This time, I used some baked sweet potatoes that I had in my fridge, poached a chicken breast and topped with avocado, as well as the all important poached egg.

1-Sweet Potato Hash 002

First I started by bringing a pot of water to a boil and poached the chicken.

poached chicken

I chopped up some onions and sauteed them in butter in a large skillet

onions

…and promptly forgot to keep an eye on them, so they got a bit brown – but those bits taste really good!

onions, browned

Then I peeled and chopped up the sweet potatoes and tossed them into the skillet to brown as well

Sweet Potatos

After the chicken was done, I chopped that up and added it to the skillet

chicken in the hash

After everything was appropriately heated and crisped, then it was time to serve it up. I topped it with a poached egg for a special treat and because I love poached eggs. (see here how to easily poach an egg)

The slices of avocado added a creaminess that was a good balance to this hash.

avocado and egg

If you make the egg soft, then the delicious runny yolk will create a sort of sauce for the rest of the dish.

1-Sweet Potato Hash 026

Add a latte made with Australian coffee beans and voila! You have a delicious breakfast that’s good enough for company, but is just as good served on your coffee table while you and two cats watch the snow fall outdoors.

1-Sweet Potato Hash 030

Sweet Potato Hash

1/2 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2 small sweet potatoes, baked, peeled and chopped
1 chicken breast, poached (see this easy method)

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and melt the butter in the pan. When the butter is all melted, add the onions and saute, stirring regularly until they are softened and lightly browned. Then add the chopped baked sweet potato and toss while allowing to brown. Add the chicken at the end, just long enough to combine and heat through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top with avocado slices and a poached egg.

This is just a general starting point for hash. The beauty of this dish is you can add whatever you like or have in your fridge at that moment. I’ve made it with leftover baked potatoes, mushrooms, garlic, onions, spinach, bell peppers, cauliflower – the sky’s the limit. I like to add meat for an extra protein punch – steak, corned beef, pork, carnitas, roasted chicken, chorizo, roast beef…the list goes on and on. You can just as easily make it vegetarian by leaving out the meat and adding broad beans, cannellini, garbanzo beans, lentils or whatever your favorite bean might be. It’s great for using up leftovers without it tasting like you’re using up leftovers.

Try it, you’ll like it!

Alice, where can you go with this??

Pork Roast with Winter Fruits and Port Sauce (Dinner Party – part 2)

7 Mar

No dinner party is complete without a showcase dish. And this pork roast was just that dish. Pork roast with a fruit stuffing, wrapped in bacon and drizzled with a port wine sauce.

Plated Roast

Don’t be intimidated by this recipe, as it looks far more difficult than it actually is. It’s not a super speedy recipe, but I think any of my dinner party guests would agree with me in saying that it was well worth the wait.

First I made the filling. Chop dried apricots and prunes into small squares. Add them to a small saucepan with some of the port and cover. Let it simmer for five minutes and then sit off the heat for another 10 minutes to absorb the liquid, all the while covered.

Fruit

In a large skillet or dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and shallot to the butter and saute until softened, about five minutes. Then add the chopped apple, along with some salt and pepper and let it cook for another five minutes, until the apple is tender.

apples and onions.1

Add the port and fruit mixture to the onion and apple mixture and mix thoroughly. Let this mixture cool before stuffing it into the pork roast.

Fruit stuffing

I bought a very large boneless pork loin roast and cut it into three manageable chunks. Then cut a pocket through the middle of the roast – slicing a 1 1/2 inch slice through the center of the roast lengthwise, then cutting a slit up and down to make a cross shape which made the pocket expandable.

Pork loin roast

Pork pocket

I salted and peppered the roast on all sides and once the stuffing was cool, I stuffed it into the pocket I had just made. I got in there with my spoon and got as much stuffing as I could fit into each of the pieces. Be aware that it is a little messy and the filling won’t all stay inside. Save the leftover stuffing for later to make a sauce to pour over the top.

Stuffing

Once the roast is stuffed, place it fat side down in the baking dish (do as I say, not as you can see I did in my photos) and lay a few slices of bacon across the roast. Bacon makes most things better! Especially pork.

Pork squared

Place the roast into a preheated oven. It starts off quite hot – up to 500° F/260° C for 20 minutes, before it’s turned down to 325° F/160° C. Make sure you place the pan into the center of the oven, or you too may have smoke billowing through your house.

Let it roast for about 1 1/2 hours before checking it with a meat thermometer.

After pulling it out of the oven, let it rest under a foil tent for 15 minutes before slicing it up. This allows the juices to redistribute themselves throughout the meat, so you can avoid having a dry roast.

Kate_cutting

While the roast is resting, you can proceed with the directions in the recipe for the sauce OR you can do as I did and just pour the rest of the bottle of port into the sauce pan with the leftover stuffing and let it cook down and thicken up a bit. It is wonderful poured over the slices of pork roast. I dished it up into a gravy boat and placed it on the table for people to add as desired.

Once the pork has rested for at least 15 minutes, you can carve the roast into thick slices and place on a large serving platter and serve to your very hungry dinner guests.

Kate_plating

Kate, the master carver

Pork Roast with Winter Fruits and Port Sauce
(adapted from Gourmet | December 2008)
by Ruth Cousineau
Yield: Makes 8 servings

For stuffing:

1/4 pound California dried apricots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 pound pitted prunes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2/3 cup ruby Port
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 small shallot, finely chopped
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tart apple such as Granny Smith, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

For roast:

1 (6-pound) pork loin roast, at room temperature 1 hour
9 or 10 bacon slices

For port sauce (optional):

1/2 cup ruby Port
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups water, divided
2 teaspoons arrowroot

Make stuffing:

Simmer apricots, prunes, and Port in a small heavy saucepan, covered, 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 10 minutes.

Cook onion and shallot in butter in a large heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add apple and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until apple is just tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in apricot mixture and cool.

Stuff and roast pork:

Preheat oven to 500°F with rack in middle.

Make a pocket in center of roast by making a horizontal 1 1/2-inch-wide cut into 1 end of roast with a long thin knife, repeating from opposite end so pocket runs all the way through. Then make a vertical cut through center (forming a cross) to widen pocket. Push about 1 cup stuffing into pocket using a long-handled wooden spoon (you may need to stuff from both sides if roast is long). Reserve remaining stuffing for sauce.

Season roast with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and put in a large flameproof roasting pan. Wrap with bacon,  tucking ends under roast. Roast pork 20 minutes, then reduce oven to 325°F and roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted 2 inches into center of roast registers 155°F, 1 1/2 hours total.

Transfer roast to a cutting board, reserving pan, and let stand, loosely covered with foil, 15 to 20 minutes. (Temperature of meat will rise to about 160°F; meat will be slightly pink.)

Make sauce (optional):

Skim fat from pan drippings and reserve 1 1/2 tablespoons fat. Straddle pan across 2 burners and add Port to drippings, then deglaze pan by boiling over high heat, stirring and scraping up brown bits, 1 minute. Strain pan juices through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, discarding solids.

Cook shallot in reserved fat in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in pan juices, 1 1/4 cups water, and reserved fruit stuffing and bring to a simmer. Whisk together arrowroot and remaining 1/4 cup water until smooth, then whisk into sauce with any juices from cutting board.

Simmer sauce, whisking occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Carve roast into thick slices, serve with sauce.

Thanks again to Kyle Krohn for the great photos!!

Quinoa Stuffed Squash Rings (Dinner Party – part 1)

27 Feb

Plated dinner

This past weekend I had a dinner party. It came about because my friend Christine just finished her kitchen remodel and currently has the best dinner party kitchen around with lots of work space, a beautiful long center island and quite a few places to set out food and drink! I wanted to cook in that nice kitchen and what better excuse for a dinner party than a lovely home, good food and great friends?

Terri, Jane, Christine, Jill/Gracie, B, Kate

Terri, Jane, Christine, Jill/Gracie, B, Kate

Olive and Kevin

Olive and Kevin

Christine, the hostess with the most-ess

Christine, the hostess with the most-ess

I also had the pleasure of working with Kyle Krohn who took the photos that I’m using on these two dinner party posts. He’s quite talented and is a great instructor. I plan to keep improving my own photography with his help.

The menu was a good solid winter dinner:

Pork Roast with Winter Fruits and Port Sauce (recipe to be featured in my next post)
Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash Rings
Smashed Potatoes
Roasted Carrots
Chopped Salad
Tiny Pies

The squash rings were a new dish for me. I’ve been cooking with quinoa quite a bit recently and have found that it’s a tasty good-for-you grain that is so adaptable to many different flavors. I like the tri-color variety that I get at Trader Joe’s.

This time I decided to make a quinoa stuffing for squash. This would be a great holiday dish for one of the many US holidays that involve squash, such as Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas dinner or any random dinner really. Cutting the squash into rings allowed me to make these individual portion sizes for a larger group.

Acorn squash

I cooked up the quinoa with chicken broth according to the package. It’s very similar to rice in that you use a 2:1 ratio of liquid to quinoa.

I rinsed one cup of quinoa first, then added it to a large stock pot with two cups of chicken broth and brought it to a boil.

At that point, I turned the heat down to low and covered the pan and let it cook for 15 minutes before removing it from the heat for another five minutes.

Quinoa

I chopped an onion, a red pepper and two tomatoes and sautéed them in a separate pan. When they were all softened, I added the cooked quinoa, some dried cranberries and slivered almonds and a splash of chicken broth, along with some salt, pepper and a pinch of dried sage.

Because I like stuffed squash but wanted individual servings, I cut the acorn squash into rings. Cut them, using a sharp knife and a lot of caution, as the last thing you want as part of your dinner party is a visit from the paramedics to stitch up your finger!

Squash slices

Cut the squash in one inch (2.5 cm) sized rings and remove the seeds.

Removing seeds from squash

Place the rings on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper and spoon the quinoa mixture in them.

Filling squash

Bake at 370 F/190 C for 30 minutes or until the squash is soft.

Remove carefully from baking sheet with a wide spatula and place directly on plates.

Dinner!

The side dishes were very simply done. I boiled baby potatoes until they could be easily pierced with a fork. After letting them cool, I smashed them with a glass, put them on a roasting sheet, drizzled them with a bit of melted butter and popped them in the hot oven until they were crispy – about 20 minutes.

For the carrots, I peeled them and cut them into 2-3 inch segments at an angle just to make them pretty. Then I tossed them with one tablespoon of olive oil in a large plastic bag to thoroughly cover them. Then they too went onto a baking sheet, were sprinkled with a large pinch of kosher salt and placed into the hot oven for about 20-25 minutes, until they had some caramelized bits on the bottoms. The carrots prepared this way were so good! They were like candy.

I’ll be back for my next post with part two of the dinner party to give you the delicious stuffed pork roast recipe.

Quinoa Stuffed Squash Rings
Serves 6-8

3 acorn squash (or any other squash that can be cut into rings)

1 cup quinoa
2 cups broth, chicken or vegetable
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries or other dried fruit
2 tablespoons slivered almonds
1 teaspoon dried sage
salt & pepper

Rinse the quinoa. Add to a medium saucepan with two cups of broth and bring to a boil over high heat. When it comes to a rolling boil, reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, let it cook for 15 minutes then remove from the heat, still covered for another five minutes.

As the quinoa is cooking, cut the squash into rings or slices and remove the seeds. Use a sharp knife and use a solid cutting board, as your knife could slip and your fingers will be in danger.

Place the cleaned out squash rings or slices onto a baking sheet covered in parchment or baking paper to keep the stuffing from sticking to the pan.

In another pan, saute the chopped onion in a tablespoon of oil until it becomes translucent.  Add the red pepper and tomatoes and let them soften for a few minutes. Then combine with the cooked quinoa, dried fruit and nuts and season with salt, pepper and sage to taste. If the mixture seems a little dry, add some broth a half cup at a time until it has achieved the consistency you would like.

Fill the squash rings generously with the stuffing. Bake at 375 F/190 C for 30 minutes or until the squash is soft.

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