Roasted Acorn Squash Salad

I think I’ve mentioned that my husband works for our church. Well, last weekend they sent him to take care of all the tech needs for our church’s women’s retreat. The bonus? I got to go with him. Plus, this year, I helped lead worship for the weekend. The women’s ministry at our church always hosts the retreat at this beautiful conference center in the mountains. We got to enjoy the changing of the leaves on our drive there and home, and I got to spend some time hiking alone (something I almost never get to do) on Saturday afternoon. Overall, it’s was a really nice weekend away for us, even if we were “working.”

The only thing that we had a little trouble with while we were there was sticking to our recent meat-free ways. Now, as I said before, my husband and I agreed that we would eat meat if it was the food being served. We absolutely had no problems putting that into practice. The food was delicious and there was a wonderful staff of youth volunteers who worked really hard to prepare and serve it to all of the women attending the retreat. The downside was the after effect. I suppose our bodies quickly adjusted to our vegetarian diet. Despite our willingness to “get what we get and not throw a fit,” I felt like I had a meat brick in my stomach by the end of the weekend.

When we got home on Sunday afternoon I still needed to run out to do the grocery shopping. I originally had a really great homemade acorn squash macaroni and cheese recipe planned for dinner that night and I already had the acorn squash. My tummy felt so heavy, though. All I was craving was a ton of vegetables! I needed to improvise how to use the acorn squash in a recipe for dinner that night so I wouldn’t have to adjust the rest of my meal plan for the week, and so the squash wouldn’t go to waste. I quickly reworked my grocery list and set off to the store.

I had a general idea of what I wanted, what my body was craving, and what the entire family could eat for dinner. Since I was improvising, I would need to wait until I got to the store to see what was in season and reasonably priced. My end result was a fantastic seasonal Roasted Acorn Squash Salad. Seriously, so satisfying.

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One of the things I was able to find was a package of mini heirloom tomatoes. These bright and colorful little beauties were perfectly ripe. I’m pretty sure my mouth was actually watering as I placed them in my shopping cart.

I decided on brussels sprouts and carrots to use in addition to the squash. These are veggies that everyone in our family likes and that taste amazing when roasted in the oven. This recipe ended up being very easy to prepare. It did require some time for the roasting of the veggies, but the combination of flavors were so good!

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Ingredients:

  • 1 small or medium acorn squash, cut into moons
  • 10 oz. shaved brussels sprouts
  • 2 – 3 large carrots, sliced
  • 2 tsp. herbs de provence
  • 3 TB olive oil
  •  1 tsp. garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • baby spinach or mixed salad greens
  • crumbled goat cheese
  • mini heirloom tomatoes, cut in halves (as many you want to use)
  • shaved almonds or chopped nuts of your choice (pecans, walnuts, etc.)
  • Trader Joe’s thyme honey balsamic vinaigrette or dressing of your choice

What to do:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 375° F.
  • Combine the acorn squash, brussels sprouts, carrots, olive oil, garlic powder, herbs, and S&P in a large roasting pan.
  • Toss to coat all of the veggies with the oil and seasonings.
  • Place the pan on the bottom rack in the oven for 40 minutes, stirring the veggies and turning the squash every 10 minutes or so.
  • Meanwhile, place a bed of spinach leaves (or salad mix) on plates.
  • Sprinkle each bed of greens with goat cheese and almonds to taste.
  • Once the roasted veggies are done, pull them out of the oven, and separate the squash from the rest of the veggies.
  • Spoon the brussels sprouts and carrots over the prepared plates.
  • Add the tomato halves.
  • Place the acorn squash on top of everything.
  • Lastly, drizzle the dressing over each salad to taste.

Bon appetit!

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Kid Friendly Curry

My little one loves to help in the kitchen whenever I will let her. She’s not quite old enough for chopping veggies or measuring on her own, but she can peel an onion like no other and her stirring arm never gets tired. She and I recently made one of our family’s favorite dinners, Red Lentil Coconut Curry. I know. I’m super lucky because my kids are little foodies who love curry!

This recipe is a very adapted variation of a recipe I found on Epicurious, which you can see here. The very first time I made this, I followed the recipe to a T. It was really good, but it came out just a smidge too spicy for the kids. Also, when I am in a hurry to make dinner, the last thing I want to worry about is pulling every spice off the shelf and measuring all of them out. So, I have simplified this quite a bit. While I’ve been able to make it more palatable for kids, it does not skimp on flavor one bit. Quick, cheap and delicious!

The ingredients are very inexpensive and easy to find.

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I had my tiny chef start by peeling the onion. She is perfect for this job because she will not stop until every last bit of onion skin is gone.

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Plus it keeps her occupied long enough for me to be able to chop the zucchini. I like to chop and prep everything before I start cooking so that I’m not trying to multitask too much once everything is on the heat. I’ve been known to get sidetracked and scorch a pan that way. I set aside my chopped zucchini in a bowl until I need it.

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Side note, if you’re wondering where I got my super awesome T-shirt, it’s from Camping with Dogs. I got an amazing deal when I signed up for their mailing list so it was $12 and free shipping. Anyway back to cooking…

Onions, garlic, lentils…curry paste, coconut cream, and water.

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Finally, the zucchini…

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Amoma-smilefter everything is in the pot, it needs to simmer for about 15 – 20 minutes. I love it because I get some extra girl time and get to talk to one of my favorite people while we’re stirring.  It definitely makes the task of making dinner seem like less of a chore on those nights when you don’t have much time.

Normally I would serve this with brown rice, but I totally spaced starting the rice early enough for it do be done so I opted for the less healthy, but faster white rice. Hint: It’s delicious either way!

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Here’s my recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 3 TB olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic (2 cloves)
  • 3 TB World Foods Thai red curry paste
  • 1/2 tsp. curry powder
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked red lentils
  • 1 can coconut cream (14 oz.)
  • 14 oz. water or vegetable broth
  • 2 medium zucchini, diced

What to Do:

  1. Heat the oil in a large pot.
  2. Add onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and cook another minute.
  4. Add lentils, curry powder, and curry paste and stir until fragrant.
  5. Add coconut cream, water, and zucchini. Bring to a boil.
  6. Reduce the heat and let simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

You can eat this by itself or serve it over your favorite rice. I hope you and your family enjoy it as much as we do! What is the most exotic thing your kids like to eat?

Meatless Isn’t Just for Monday Anymore

At the beginning of summer I think I was actually drooling in anticipation of grilled steaks, chicken breast, pork chops and kabobs. When the weather got warmer I eagerly asked my hubby to pick up a new tank of propane. For the first few weeks of grilling season we gorged ourselves on fajitas, rib-eyes, and speared sausages with summer squash. It didn’t last long. Soon after grilling season began, it started raining everyday right around the time I was needing to cook dinner. Thus, my grill may as well have been gone. Le sigh.

One of the first nights that we got rained out, I made a vegetable stir-fry for dinner. It was fantastic! unnamedRed cabbage, bok choy, carrots, tofu, and soba noodles all tossed together in a teriyaki sauce. Not only did it taste great, but my husband and I both noticed how much more satisfied we felt after eating that type of meal. I also noticed how much my digestive system appreciated it.

Now don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t like we were only eating a slab of meat each night. I am very determined to make sure every meal is well balanced with vegetables, grains, and protein. It’s not like this was the first vegetarian meal I had ever made either. Previously, I would typically plan at least 1-2 meatless meals per week. I think what made the stir-fry stand out was that we had been overdoing it with the meat, and my body responded with relief when I finally fed it a bowl full of plant-based bliss.

It was enough to get me thinking. When I also considered how much the price of meat had gone up just over the last year it sparked a conversation. Hubby and I talked about it and we decided that neither of us would be opposed to trying out a mostly vegetarian diet for a while. We agreed that seafood was still ok. So I guess that’s technically “Pescetarian,” but we also agreed that we wouldn’t refuse meat if it was served at a gathering, or if meat was the only available option while eating out. That’s why I say “mostly” vegetarian.

It’s been about 2 months now since we’ve made this change. I have to say that I do not miss the meat at all! We have had the occasional pepperoni on a pizza here and there, but our weeknight dinners and homemade lunches have all been meatless. The kids are enjoying it too! They have been cleaning their plates and asking for more. Perhaps a little TMI for you, but we’ve all been less gassy. I’ve even been able to lose at least 3 pounds in that short amount of time just from eliminating meat. It’s definitely been a positive change for our family.

I’ve really stayed away from buying pre-made meat substitutes. Instead I’ve opted for various types of beans, lentils, eggs, cheese, and tofu. Go easy on the tofu though…too much soy can mess with your hormones. I’ll direct you here so I don’t go off topic. I’ve also been surprised to learn how much protein is already in a lot of the grains and veggies we love. They key is planning. It has helped tremendously to keep me on track and to make sure our family is getting the right nutrition. When I sit down and make a menu plan I can see each ingredient that will go into a particular meal which allows me to determine if I need to supplement it with anything.

Our bellies and our bank account have been much happier with the switch. So far we have saved about $100 on our monthly grocery bill! I’m sure as the weather starts to get colder we’ll be craving comfort foods like chicken ‘n dumplings and beef stew. I’ll probably work those family favorites into our menu in moderation, but I know I will continue to plan meatless meals for most dinners going forward.