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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.


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.


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.


Beet Salad

8 Oct

Those savory pies of Alice’s are going right onto my fall menu rotation. They will be perfect to keep in my freezer to take for a lunch on the go. This beet salad would be a good accompaniment to the savory pies, as well as many other dishes.

I got this recipe from my friend Diana after I picked up these gorgeous multicolored beets. It was certainly a winner, thanks Diana!

I bought these from an organic farmer at the Mill City farmers market in Minneapolis. After scrubbing the skin, cutting off the stems and roots, I popped them into a large pot with a steamer basket and a couple inches of water to steam.

Keep pot covered and steam the beets until they are soft enough to be easily pierced by a fork.

While they are steaming, chop up some bacon. Mmmmmm, BACON!

Put it into a large skillet over medium heat to crisp it up

Toss in some sliced garlic near the end to crisp that up as well. Drain and set aside.

When the beets are fully steamed, pull them out and let them cool for a few minutes, then peel.

You should be able to slide the peels right off with some paper towels.

Chop them into bite sized pieces and let them cool.

Whisk up a vinaigrette with olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard and salt & pepper.

Toss the beets with the bacon bits, crisp garlic slices and the dressing, then crumble goat cheese over the top.

Voila! Alice, I think we make a pretty good team with our dishes. What’s next?

Beet Salad

7-8 beets
6 slices of bacon, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
2 oz crumbled goat cheese

3/4 cup of nice extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup of red wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon of Dijon mustard
salt & fresh ground pepper to taste

Remove stem and root of beets, scrub skin and place into steamer for 15-20 minutes or until they can easily be pierced by a fork.

While beets are steaming, chop up bacon and place into skillet to crisp. Add sliced garlic to skillet for the last few minutes to crisp as well. Do not burn the garlic, as it will get very bitter if it is burnt at all. Remove and let drain on a paper towel.

When beets are finished, remove from steamer and let cool for a few minutes. Then slide the skin off the beets with a paper towel, chop and let chill.

Whisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard and salt & pepper. You may not need all of this dressing for the beet salad – in which case, you can store the unused portion in the fridge and use it on another salad.

Toss all ingredients together and top with crumbled goat cheese. Serve.

Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta

3 Jul

I can imagine sitting at a bar being very happy with a plate of B’s roasted potatoes in front of me.

My choice of dish was influenced by a dinner my step-mother cooked the other night. Betsy cooked this Brussels sprouts recipe from the book Italian Local by Tobie Puttock. They are more of a side dish than a tapas dish, but I have to say, I would be thrilled to eat them with a drink at a bar. We actually doubled the recipe and ate them as an entrée (appetizer in American speak), for four people. Light and flavoursome.

One of the best things about this blog for me is being able to share food as I discover it, try recipes recommended by friends, try things I would never normally attempt, and also have a recipe file for myself for later use. This is one of those recipes. I plan to make this every Brussels season.

I started with these ingredients…

Baby Brussels sprouts, onion, garlic, pancetta, thyme, butter and salt and pepper. I also used a little olive oil.

I began by chopping off the bases of my gorgeous little farmer’s market Brussels. They were so small and fresh they hardly needed any outer leaves discarded, but in general you will need to chop off the end of the stem and remove the outer leaves. I then put them in to a bowl of cold water to soak.

I cut up the pancetta in to a dice, and put it in to a heavy bottomed fry pan over medium heat. I added a little olive oil to the pan, as I wanted some flavoured oil to be left in the pan after cooking the pancetta, and there did not seem to be much coming from the meat itself.

While the pancetta was cooking I chopped up the onion to a dice, and the garlic in to slices.

When the pancetta was crispy, I scooped it out of the pan on to paper towel, leaving about a tablespoon of fat in the pan.

I then cooked the onion in the pan with the remaining fat. I sautéed until golden, they picked up colour as they deglazed the pan. I added in the garlic at the same time as the onion, but in future I would add it later on, I think it was overcooked. When the onion and garlic mix was cooked, I put it in a bowl. I kept the pan on the stove for a future step, and put in the butter to let it melt slowly off the heat in the pan.

I brought a pot of water to the boil, and scooped the Brussels out of the cold water and into the boiling water. I cooked them for four or so minutes. I wanted them to still be a little firm.

From the boiling water they went straight in to the fry pan with melted butter, where they cooked for a few minutes over medium heat, then I added the onion mix and thyme, and cooked for another minute over low heat. Then half the pancetta went in, and I mixed it through. I seasoned with pepper and salt to taste.

When I served them up I used the remaining crispy pancetta as a garnish. I have to admit, I was concerned I would eat it before I would get to take the pictures it was that good! It is best served straight away.

B, I have taken a side step, although I still believe this would fit well in to our Spanish night out, this is an Italian dish… where to from here?


Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta
based on a recipe by Tobie Puttock from Italian Local


200g (7oz) small Brussels sprouts, outer leaves discarded
60g (2oz) thinly sliced pancetta, diced (you could substitute prosciutto or cured spanish ham)
1 brown onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
20g butter (2/3 oz)
2 stalks thyme
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Place Brussels sprouts in cold water to soak.
In a fry pan over medium heat, cook the pancetta until crispy, add a teaspoon or so of olive oil if there is little fat coming out of the meat. When cooked scoop from the pan, leaving the flavoured oil and fat, and set aside on paper towel.
In the fat in the pan, cook the onions, for around 6 minutes, and then add in the garlic and continue to cook for another few minutes, until the onion is golden. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. Add the butter to the pan off the heat, to melt slowly in the residual heat.
Bring a pot of water to boil, and using a slotted spoon scoop the soaking Brussels and put them in the boiling water. Cook for 4 minutes or until tender, but still crisp. Transfer the Brussels to the pan with butter using a slotted spoon again, and sauté over medium heat for 3 minutes. Turn the heat down to low and add in the onion mixture, and the thyme, then sauté for one more minute before mixing through half of the pancetta.
Serve immediately using the remaining pancetta as garnish.

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