Curried Lamb and Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash

Well, it is now officially autumn. Weather-wise, it came early this year up here in northeast Ohio; the trees are already turning, which usually doesn’t really begin to ramp up until the second week of October in this neck of the woods, and my winter wardrobe’s migration towards the front of our closet is also a bit premature.  It’s the last week of the season for our CSA and Beloved has begun clearing out our own gardens, as well.

I don’t think we’ll be buying as many apples this year, as we still have plenty of applesauce from last year, but I’m really looking forward to some apple-based dishes, both sweet and savory, and I’m going to try and make some apple cider jelly.

We’ve decided not to do a CSA share next year, but rather get our summer produce from our own gardens and supplement with purchases from local farmer’s markets.  There’s only so much we can consume, even with Darling Daughter back home and The Young One here for the summer and holidays, and some of what we grew ourselves simply went unharvested – mostly leafy greens – because we just couldn’t eat it all.

Winter squashes are in full swing about now, and my obsession with cooking and stuffing them continues unabated.  Last week, it was Mexican-inspired stuffed spaghetti squash; this week, it’s a Moroccan-flavored lamb and quinoa mixture heaped inside roasted acorn squash.

Acorn squash isn’t my favorite – that spot is reserved for butternuts and kabochas – but we had two we’d acquired through our CSA share and I decided, since they were sitting there on the counter, just staring me in the face, that I probably should do something with them.  I wasn’t in the mood for soup (that happened last night with our lone sweet dumpling squash), but another stuffed squash sure sounded like a good idea.  It wasn’t long before I was pulling the last pound of ground lamb from our freezer and the bag of sprouted quinoa from the pantry.

It turns out it was an excellent idea – this was just delicious (frankly, I’d have been happy eating just the filling; it was that good).  Darling Daughter and I shared one half between the two of us, while Beloved inhaled an entire half all on his own.  This is also one of those dishes that is even better the next day, and it reheats beautifully.

Curried Lamb and Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash. Liven up that ordinary roasted acorn squash with lamb, quinoa and curry powder.

Click the image to enlarge

Curried Lamb and Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 2 medium acorn squash
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup raisins, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped pistachios
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Cut the squashes in half, lengthwise, and scoop the seeds from the center. Rub each half with the olive oil; place cut side down on a shallow, rimmed baking sheet. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes, or until easily pierced with a fork.
  3. While the squash is in the oven, cook the lamb in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat, breaking it up as it cooks with a large wooden spoon. Once it has barely begun to brown, add the onion and continue cooking until most of the fat has rendered from the meat and the onion has softened. Stir in the garlic, curry powder, cumin, cinnamon, coriander and salt and pepper and cook until the meat is cooked through and the mixture is fragrant.
  4. Remove the meat mixture from the heat and stir in the pistachios, raisins and quinoa, mixing well. Set aside.
  5. When the squash is done, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool slightly. Turn it over so that the cut sides are facing up and spoon the lamb/quinoa mixture into the centers, packing it in as necessary, until all of the filling has all been used.
  6. Reduce the heat to 350 F and return the stuffed squash halves to the oven. Bake, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
  7. Carefully cut each in half lengthwise before serving.
  8. Nutrition (per serving): 396 calories, 21.5g total fat, 41.4mg cholesterol, 512.4mg sodium, 833.2mg potassium, 39.6g carbohydrates, 5.1g fiber, 11.7g sugar, 14.8g protein

Sheldon

Suzanne over at 24 At Heart is getting a Newfoundland puppy in a few weeks, and is asking for name suggestions.  If you think of a name for what will eventually be a huge, furry, black dog, please go drop her a line.

I, unfortunately, couldn’t give her any ideas, because I absolutely SUCK at naming things.  Darling Daughter, on the other hand, is wonderful at it.  When stuck for a name for our latest side of grass-fed beef, it was DD who promptly came up with “Wellington.”

Think about it for a minute.

At any rate, when I decided to try my hand at amigurumi – the Japanese art of knitting or crocheting small stuffed animals and anthropomorphic creatures – I started with a turtle, mainly so I could eventually make a quartet and turn them into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for a certain young man.

Besides, the pattern was unbearably adorable, and I’m a sucker for unbearably adorable.

When I began The Turtle, that was pretty much how I referred to it.  Eventually, though, Beloved asked me what I was going to name it.

“I dunno….George?”

Darling Daughter looked at me with some akin to mild disgust.  “No – SHELDON.”

And Sheldon he became, and because she named him, he now belongs to DD.

Sheldon the Amigurumi Turtle

For those of you who are interested, you can purchase the pattern here.  I used an F/5/3.75mm hook and Bernat Cotton Handicrafter Yarn in Olive for his head, body and limbs, Bernat Cotton Handicrafter Yarn in Cloves for the back of his shell, and Bernat Cotton Sugar ‘n’ Cream Yarn in Ecru for the front of his shell.

Now, if you look at the example that accompanies the actual pattern, you’ll see that Sheldon is not nearly as well-proportioned as the little guy in the picture, but I’m not terribly upset by that.  Sheldon turned out pretty well for a first attempt, especially when you realize I’d never crocheted anything in the round before – all of my previous projects have been limited to afghans and scarves (in other words, squares and rectangles).

I do know one thing, though – I will get better, because I am, pardon the expression, hooked on crocheting unbearably adorable stuffed animals.

Heaven help us when I graduate to clothing…

Mexican-Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

Happy…middle of September?  How the heck did THAT happen??

Before we know it, Autumn will be upon us.  In fact, it’s coming early from what I can see – we already have trees turning on our street (much to Darling Daughter’s dismay).

While I do NOT look forward to winter, I generally enjoy fall.  It’s a gorgeous season up here in northeast Ohio and the crisp temperatures are an invigorating excuse to wear my didn’t-exist-until-I-moved-North cool weather wardrobe.

Because, let’s face it, it’s cold for all of about 3 days in the middle of February down in Texas.

It’s also an opportunity to start tuning up for cold-weather cooking, which is (according to at least one of my readers) my forte.  I won’t deny it; I love casseroles and stews and braises and other hearty, stick-to-your-ribs fare.

This particular recipe is a new favorite.  Ooooohhh, myyyyyyyy.

While the butternut squash Beloved planted earlier in the season didn’t take at all (this is not true of the one that has sprung up spontaneously in another garden – I guess the compost didn’t get hot enough again this year), the spaghetti squash is doing just fine.  We’ve already picked a couple, and I made this with the very first one Beloved harvested.

Fortunately, the harvest of this squash coincided with the last of the summer sweet corn we picked up at the farmer’s market.  When I finally decided what I was going to do with this particular one – I didn’t want it to involve a pasta sauce – I soaked and cooked some black beans, as well as a pound of Meat for Tacos. After that I made a fresh salsa with some red onion, a hillbilly tomato and a jalapeno, all from our garden, along with some cilantro from the CSA.  Once I’d roasted the squash, all that was left was to shred some cheese and assemble the whole thing and bake it in the oven.

It. Was. AMAZING.  This is comfort food, folks – delicious, satisfying and quite healthful comfort food.  The servings are also quite generous, and the leftovers keep well in the refrigerator, if they’re well-covered.  It really reheats beautifully – Beloved and I shared one stuffed squash half the night I made it, and finished off the other half for lunch the next day.  It was every bit as good (if not a little bit better, as dishes like this tend to be).

This would also be awesome topped with a good, homemade guacamole.

Mexican-Stuffed Spaghetti Squash. Healthy and creative, this Mexican-inspired casserole is a great way to jazz up this versatile winter squash.

Click the image to enlarge

Mexican-Stuffed Spaghetti Squash
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 large spaghetti squash
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 1 pound [url href=”http://www.janssushibar.com/meat-tacos/” target=”_blank”]Meat for Tacos[/url]
  • 1/2 medium red onion, diced
  • 2 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 cup fresh tomato salsa
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Halve the spaghetti squash and scrape out the seeds from the center. Rub both halves with olive oil and place them, cut side down, on a foil-lined baking sheet. Roast for 40 minutes, or until easily pierced with a fork; remove from the oven and allow to cool.
  3. While the squash is roasting, prepare the [url href=”http://www.janssushibar.com/meat-tacos/” target=”_blank”]Meat for Tacos[/url].
  4. Once cooled enough to handle, shred the meat of the squash into a large mixing bowl with a fork, leaving the shells intact. Season lightly with salt and pepper; stir in the beans, corn, taco meat, red onion and half the cheese until thoroughly combined. Spoon the mixture back into the squash shells and top with the remaining cheese. Return to the foil-lined baking sheet.
  5. Reduce the heat to 350 F and return the stuffed squash halves to the oven. Bake for 30 minutes.
  6. Allow the stuffed squash to rest for 5 or so minutes before cutting each half in two. Top with the salsa and serve.
  7. Nutrition (per serving): 584 calories, 36.4g total fat, 95.4mg cholesterol, 1076.6mg sodium, 1024.3mg potassium, 37.1g carbohydrates, 6.9g fiber, 4.9g sugar, 30.9g protein

The Button Infinity Scarf

Say hello to The Incredible Shrinking Girl.

The Incredible Shrinking Girl

Since moving in with us in late April, Darling Daughter has lost about 50 pounds.  It’s amazing what can happen when you simply cut junk out of your diet.  Of course, it doesn’t hurt that she has a pretty physically demanding job (which she loves)

Above is the photo she posted to Facebook last night to show off the infinity scarf I made for her.  You have to admit, the girl knows how to take a selfie.

The photo I took is a little less flattering (it doesn’t help that ALL of her clothes are just hanging on her these days), but you get a better look at the yarn I used (black acrylic interwoven with shiny, metallic threads in different colors):

The Button Infinity Scarf

I haven’t had much time to crochet lately (and I’m not going to have a lot of time until the wedding cakes I’m doing in early October, to say nothing of canning season, have passed), but when Darling Daughter asked for an infinity scarf to wear this winter, how could I turn her down?

For the uninitiated, an infinity scarf is simply a winter scarf crocheted into a big loop – no beginning, no end.  Since I wanted to do a braided scarf, I couldn’t crochet in a big loop; I had to crochet three separate panels, sew them together at one end, braid them, sew them together at the other end, then join the two ends before adding buttons at the seam.

I’d love to give you the pattern for it, but I sort of went off the cuff with this one and while I could write a recipe in my sleep, I have no earthly idea how to write a crochet pattern.

Which doesn’t mean I won’t try.  Because you know how I am.

So… here goes.

Materials:

– 3 skeins Loops and Threads Impeccable Glitter, “Mirror” color

– size H/5.0mm crochet hook

– 3 large, black buttons

tapestry needle

Abbreviations:

ch: chain

sc: single crochet

dc: double crochet

st: stitch

Make 3 panels using the following directions:

Loosely ch 18

Row 1 –  Dc in the 3rd st from hook; dc to the end of the chain (16 dc). Ch 1; turn.

Row 2 – Sc in 1st dc; sc to end of the chain (16 sc). * Ch 1; turn.

Row 3 – Repeat row 2 to *. Ch 3; turn.

Repeat rows (1 – 3) 23 more times for a total 24 rows of (1) dc and (2) sc.  Fasten off yarn and cut.  Weave in loose ends.

Line up the ends of the 3 panels.  Using the tapestry needle and the same yarn the scarf is made of, sew together the panels on one end.  Braid the panels; sew together the other end of the panels.  Bring the ends together and join them, again using the tapestry needle and yarn.

Attach the buttons at the seam.  Fasten off yarn and cut; weave in all loose ends.

Please, all of you serious hookers out there, let me know what I’ve done wrong here – it’s all a learning experience for me!

Ginger-Peach Crisp

Well, another crazy weekend came and went.

Oh, who am I kidding?  My whole life is crazy, and it’s not going to be any less crazy until about November.  If I’m lucky.

At any rate, my Young Diabetic Friend accompanied us on our rounds this Saturday to pick up our eggs and CSA share.  We also visited a couple of (tiny but good) farmer’s markets, as well as our friends at Whitefeather Meats where I bought the most incredible bison short ribs; they promptly became dinner.

Because no matter how often I post recipes like this, I’m always going to looooooooove my pastured/grass-fed/ethically raised meats – especially the odd bits.

At any rate, we spent the day canning 16 pints of green beans and slicing and vacuum-sealing about 2 pounds of fresh okra for the Young Diabetic Friend, as well as milling another half-bushel of paste tomatoes that we canned Sunday.  I also picked up a 1/2 peck of what is probably the last of the fresh peaches we’ll see this summer when we swung by Geig’s Orchard to get some of their incomparable, freshly pressed apple cider.

About half the peaches, which were on the small side, went into this wonderful dish that I made to go with our Sunday brunch.  Fresh peaches compete with cherries for the title of Jan’s Favorite Fruit, but if you put me in a headlock and made me choose, I’d probably pick the peaches.  I adore them, which is why I have at least 1/2 a peck sliced and vacuum sealed in my garage freezer.  I also love to cook with them – just search for “peaches” on this site, and you’ll see – and that includes the occasional dessert.

Of which this one is a doozy.  Oh. Muh. GAWD…it will certainly justify the purchase of both the candied ginger and the ground cardamom if you don’t already have some.  The servings are not large, but this is one of those desserts you want to eat slowly and reverently, savoring every bite.

Ginger-Peach Crisp. Combining peaches with candied ginger makes for a delicious - and slightly exotic - dessert.

Click the image to enlarge

Ginger-Peach Crisp
Serves: 9
Ingredients
  • 3 1/2 lbs ripe peaches (about 6 to 8), peeled, pitted, and sliced
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped candied ginger
  • Crumb Topping
  • 1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the peaches and sugar. Allow to sit for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain the peaches in a colander set over another bowl to collect the juices. Return the peaches to the original bowl and toss with the cornstarch, salt and candied ginger.
  3. While the peaches are macerating, combine the oats, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and ground coriander in a large bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry knife or two forks until the mixture is crumbly. Set aside.
  4. Transfer the juices from the drained peaches to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium high heat and cook, swirling gently from time to time but not stirring, until the liquid has reduced by about half. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Stir into the peach mixture.
  5. Pour the peaches into an 8″ x 8″ glass baking dish; sprinkle the topping evenly over the fruit, covering it as completely as possible.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the topping is golden and crisp. Allow to cool to almost room temperature before serving.
  7. Nutrition (per serving): 287 calories, 9.1g total fat, 20.4mg cholesterol, 37.8mg sodium, 408mg potassium, 51g carbohydrates, 4.2g fiber, 34.2g sugar, 3.9g protein