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.

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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

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

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

Tomato, Okra and Corn Soup

I almost didn’t post today – we’re taking the day off, stretching our weekend to four days – and I keep thinking it’s Saturday (“It is!” says Beloved gleefully. “For the next 3 days!”).

Anyhoo, I thought I’d post a beautiful, completely seasonal recipe today.  It’s a reworked version of one I posted 3 years ago, so it’s not exactly new.  What it is, however, is greatly simplified and somewhat improved.

When I posted this recipe originally in late August of 2011, I had not yet discovered the wonder that is a food mill – I was still peeling and seeding tomatoes by hand and pureeing them in the food processor.  A food mill, either a small one, like I used for this particular dish, or a large one, which is indispensable when making and canning huge batches of tomato or apple sauce,  is an absolutely marvelous gadget and I don’t know how I ever managed without either of them.  Basically, I just cut up the tomatoes we’d gotten that week from the CSA – there was quite a variety of them – and cranked them through the small food mill until I had a beautiful puree.

Sooooo much easier than cutting an X in the bottom of the tomatoes, dropping them in boiling water for a minute, shocking them in ice water, then peeling, cutting them in half, squeezing/digging out the seeds then chopping them by hand or running them through the food processor.  Trust me on this.

At any rate, this not only cut down the preparation and cook time, it also allowed me to increase the ratio of tomatoes to chicken stock, which made for a slightly thicker – and much smoother – soup.  I also increased the amount of sweet corn (we are just swimming in it this year) and used Cajun seasoning rather than just cayenne.

The result was simply out of the world.  It was just delicious and I felt so virtuous as I ate it I could barely stand myself.  Literally everything in it, spices aside, was local – the butter from a local dairy that pastures their cows, the tomatoes and okra from our CSA share, the sweet corn from the tiny farmer’s market where we meet our poultry farmer for eggs during the summer, the chicken stock from the backs and feet of the pastured chickens we get from the same farmer, and that I made and canned myself.  “Fresh” doesn’t even begin to describe it.

In addition to be it being about as local as possible – when you live in the suburbs, at any rate – this soup is incredibly nutritious to boot.  It is an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, potassium, niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin K, vitamin E, phosphorus, copper, magnesium,  manganese and fiber.  Eat this with a nice salad of fresh greens topped with a tasty homemade dressing, some simply grilled meat and a few Dilly Beans and you’ve got meal that you can feel smug about, too.

Note:  You can, of course, use canned tomato puree if you don’t have a food mill and/or access to tomatoes in season.  If you can’t find fresh okra, frozen should be fine (the same goes for the corn), assuming you can find it without breading.  Depending on how you view the inclusion of certain grains in your diet, this is paleo-friendly as well.  It is certainly gluten-free as written.

Tomato, Okra and Corn Soup. A Southern favorite, this soup is about as seasonal as it gets.  Bring on the late summer harvest!

Click the image to enlarge

Tomato, Okra and Corn Soup
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 cups tomato puree
  • 4 cups chicken stock or broth, preferably homemade
  • 2 cups sliced okra
  • 2 cups corn kernels, freshly cut from the cob
  • 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning, or to taste
  • salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Melt the butter in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat; cook the onion until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  2. Add the tomato puree, chicken broth, okra and corn; increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and stir in the Cajun seasoning. Continue cooking until the vegetables are tender and the mucilage has cooked out of the okra, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Season to taste with salt and pepper before serving.
  4. Nutrition (per serving): 216 calories, 6.9g total fat, 15mg cholesterol, 358.2mg sodium, 1153.4mg potassium,34.1g carbohydrates, 5.6g fiber, 14.5g sugar, 9.4g protein

Green Bean and Tomato Salad

I bemoaned on Facebook this morning that, “I will be SO glad when school is back in session so I can eat like an adult again.”

Having The G Man so often this summer has required a lot of kid-friendly meals.  Which suits The Young One just fine – he’s never outgrown his love of chicken nuggets, spaghetti, pizza and meatballs in barbecue sauce over mashed potatoes (last night’s dinner).  Beloved, Darling Daughter and I, on the other hand, are going through quinoa, lamb curry and liver paté withdrawal.

In fact, once the adult palates are all that’s left in the house, liver paté is going to be one of the first things I’m going to make.

At any rate, this past Saturday it was just me and Beloved for dinner.  (Of course it was just me and Beloved for dinner – there was a bushel of green beans to clean and can; do you honestly think there would be a kid anywhere in sight??)  While I was busy with the green beans, Beloved cut up and vacuum sealed three of the four chickens we’d picked up from our poultry farmer a couple of days before.  The fourth chicken was duly spatchcocked, seasoned with s&p and slipped into a Ziploc bag with some buttermilk and fresh tarragon to marinate.

Later that evening, after the beans had (mostly) been dispensed with, Beloved fired up the grill and roasted the chicken along with a couple of ears of fresh sweet corn, and I made this, for a dinner that was so locally sourced I could barely eat it, I was feeling so smug.

Oh, I kid.  I wolfed it down.

Along with the absurd amount of green beans we picked up last week, we also have been getting some lovely cherry tomatoes and red onions from the CSA.  Inspired by a recipe that came with our CSA share last week, I decided to combine the 3 with some fresh rosemary from our garden, although you could use any fresh herb you like (I know at least one of my readers is allergic to rosemary).  One quick balsamic vinaigrette later, we had a wonderfully refreshing, delicious and seasonal salad.

Please let the salad marinate in the fridge for at least an hour before eating to allow the flavors to marry – in fact, if you can remember to make it ahead, this is even better the next day.  I ate the leftovers for 3 days straight, it’s just so yummy.  And this is not only paleo-friendly, if you leave out the honey, which is completely optional, it’s Whole30 compliant, as well as vegan-friendly.

Green Bean and Tomato Salad. A fantastic summer side dish for when fresh green beans and tomatoes are at their best.

Click the image to enlarge

Green Bean and Tomato Salad
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound green beans, trimmed and cut in half
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red onion
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey (optional)
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Bring 3 quarts of salted water to a boil in a stock pot; drop in the green beans and blanch for 2 minutes. Drain and plunge into a large bowl of ice water until completely cooled.
  2. Drain the beans again and pat dry with paper towels. Place in a large bowl with the tomatoes, onion and rosemary; toss to combine.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar and honey (if using). Add the olive oil, pouring in a thin stream, whisking continually until well-combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Pour the dressing over the green bean mixture and toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour before tossing again and serving.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 142 calories, 12.2g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 6.4mg sodium, 151.5mg potassium, 8g carbohydrates, 2g fiber, 2.7g sugar, 1.3g protein