Sunday, November 9, 2014

Chicken Taco Stuffed Pattypan Squash

Black beans.
Tiny jalapeños.
The perfect avocado.

What would you do?

Well, ordinarily I would be googling all over the place. But I've already done that for pattypan squash. Twice. There are plenty of options, but very few transform the squash into a main dish, and even fewer call for a single, giant squash (like the ones my CSA farm tends to grow).

Maybe I was inspired by my upcoming trip to the Mayan Riviera, but......

I made a giant taco.

No, seriously. I have Mexico on the  brain. I am currently searching through a billion possibilities of places to stay on Isla Mujeres, in Tulum, and in Puerto Morelos. This is happening.

Taco Stuffed Pattypan Squash

Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 80 min
Yield 4-5 servings

1 medium pattypan squash
1 teaspoon chipotle/southwestern seasoning
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
½ cup dried white rice
1 - 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
3 large cloves garlic, minced
¼ large white onion, chopped
3 tiny jalapeños (or ½ large jalapeño), minced
1 medium chicken breast
1 tablespoon taco seasoning
1 – 14.5 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup fresh pico de gallo
½ avocado, sliced
Sour cream (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice the top off of the squash and remove the seeds and any stringy insides. The patty pan squash should now look like a bowl. Bake for 1–1.5 hours (until a fork easily pierces the skin and flesh). Baking time will vary depending on size of squash.
2. In a large saucepan, heat half of the olive oil on medium heat. Sauté onions, garlic, and jalapeños for 3-4 minutes. Stir in rice and sauté until toasted and slightly golden in color.
3. Dump canned tomatoes (including all liquid) into the saucepan with the rice and onion mixture. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and rice is cooked to desired consistency.
3. Heat remaining olive oil in a skillet on medium heat. Cook chicken breast through (about 7-8 minutes per side). Remove from heat and rest chicken for 10 minutes, then shred with a fork.
4. Add chicken back to skillet (and finish cooking, if necessary), add 1 tablespoon of water along with the taco seasoning. Stir to combine and heat through. Add black beans.
5. When squash is finished, remove from oven and stuff with rice, chicken and black bean mixture, and top with pico de gallo, avocado and sour cream.
6. Cut the squash into quarters and serve like a Mexican pie.


Calories 439, Total Fat 12 g, Cholesterol 32 mg, Sodium: 1017 mg, Protein 21 g, Fiber 11.3 g

........And then that thing happened where I wasn't following a recipe and tremendously underestimated how long it would take to cook the squash and I ate my taco on a microwave baked potato. Don't let this happen to you. Plan ahead for a giant squash, people.

The potato was good, but the squash was much better (even reheated). Apparently, if you ever find yourself with an abundance of ripe pattypan, I'm your girl. Savory, stuffed, or sweet.

Now back to vacation planning!!

(I think planning my own vacations could be a really great career.)

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Cocoa Chai Spice Roasted Almonds

Guess what?! My horses finally made it home to Texas. A three day trailer ride with a layover in Missouri got Angel and Halo down from Iowa in one piece (or, two pieces actually, each made up of a gazillion other pieces). I am so glad to have them close by again. I am far too neurotic to leave my pets that many miles away for very long.

For the first time since July, I got to rub horse noses and scratch horse ears, and hear that endearing little sound that Angel makes when she knows I have food for her*. It was so cute. Even though she had a huge hive of dried cockleburs hanging near her right ear. The rest of her mane was twisted into little black spirals and dredlock tangles... it was not cute. Halo had a few minor mane issues, too, but she has naturally beautiful princess cow pony hair (it's true -- just ask the little girls at Stagecoach Stables), so hers wasn't as bad after a few months of neglect.

Anyway, brushing a knotted labyrinth of horse hair is a fitting punishment for leaving them in Iowa without me for the last three months.  After a couple of days in segregation from the crowd, they were turned out with the rest of the Texas herd today on 65 acres of green grass and seem to be settling in nicely. GBT**.

Now lets talk about these almonds. Aside from horsing around, weekends are also for cooking (and taking pictures because I am home when there is sunlight and windows and time). I'd been eyeballing these Chocolate Chai Roasted Almonds from The Simple Veganista for quite a while***. I even bought an extra pound of raw almonds on my last trip to Trader Joe's****. As soon as I was in a functional-enough kitchen to do some testing down here, these made their debut. Here goes.

I followed the original recipe almost to the letter, but would definitely recommend backing off on the roasting time, as suggested in my version below. Obviously the time to roast will depend on your oven, so feel free to test them halfway and again at 15 minutes to ensure they do not burn. The almonds will be a little sticky at half time, but will be dry once completely cooked and cooled. And don't worry if they stick in clumps -- they will be very easy to break apart.

Cocoa Chai Spice
Roasted Almonds

Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 17 min
Yield 12 servings

3 cups raw almonds
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract, optional
1 heaping teaspoon cocoa powder
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
1 heaping teaspoon cardamom
1 heaping teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper (I used white pepper)
a few pinches of mineral salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients until the almonds are well coated.
3. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread almonds into a single layer.
4. Bake for 17-20 minutes, shuffling once in the middle.
5. Allow to cool completely and store in an airtight container for up to two months.

Calories 226, Total Fat 17 g, Cholesterol 0 mg, Sodium: 14 mg, Protein 7.6 g, Fiber 4.7 g

These things were so easy, but (alas) they are all gone now. SO.. I am looking for my next roasted almond recipe to try! If you have any suggestions, let me know in the comments!

Everyone should be greeted in that way. It'll warm your heart, really. That is why she is my favorite.
** God Bless Texas.
*** I have also also made her Glazed Vegan Lentil Loaf. That recipe has been one of the most popular pages on this blog.... if you are interested. :)
****Dear Trader Joe: PLEASE PLEASE come to College Station. I'll pay you. Love, L.
*****Sorry for the excessive number of footnotes.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Chocolate Chip Patty Pan Bread

This week at work has been so busy! I wish I could say that a daily slice of this no-oil chocolate squash bread was my single indulgence to get me through, but...

let's talk about something else.

Patty pan squash.

I only used about a quarter of the squash in the ratatouille from last week and have brainstormed / Googled other ways to use it up (especially because I got another one in the most recent CSA delivery). One of the recipes I found was from The Harmonious Kitchen. I switched it up a bit by replacing oil with applesauce, reducing the sugar, using 50:50 whole wheat:white flour, and increasing the squash. The end result was a just-sweet-enough, chocolate-chips-in-every-bite, soft and awesome bread.

I made this last weekend when J was in town visiting and we had our first, tentative bites after a 5 mile run, which included an unplanned detour through Wiener Fest*. That's a festival of wiener dogs, in case you were wondering. In fact, a part of me wishes I had a wiener dog just so I could enter it into the races. They actually have a race for "wannabe wieners" that Newton would have qualified for, but let's be honest: watching dachshunds** run is much more entertaining than watching dogs with normal sized legs run.

And look what else we saw:

Isn't this thing so cool??! I think this was part of a "coolest dog house" competition or something, but I haven't done the research to see what exactly was going on. A bunch of really awesome doggie houses were all lined up along the sidewalk here, but this one really stood out. Amazing!

Here is your reference, non-Texas people: Gruene Hall is the most famous dance hall in the central lone star state that plays host to some of the best country music in the entire world (a la REK).

Between J's visit, randomly running (literally) into Wiener Fest at the park, seeing this dog house, and visiting with an old friend (well, she used to be my boss back in the day, but it's been a we can be friends now, I think), last weekend was pretty great. And then the chocolate bread actually turned out pretty great, too, so luckily that just added to the overall greatness.

Chocolate Chip 
Patty Pan Bread

Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 25 to 65 min (muffins vs loaf)
Yield about 12 servings

1 cup unsweetened applesauce
3 eggs
¼ cup plain, nonfat Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
½ cup white sugar
½ cup brown sugar, packed
¾ cup whole wheat flour
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup cocoa powder
2 Tablespoons baking powder
2-2 ½ cups grated patty pan squash
1 cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9 x 5” loaf pan with parchment paper and grease the sides. Alternatively, grease a muffin tin (about 18 cups).
2. In a large bowl, mix wet ingredients (applesauce, eggs, and yogurt) and both sugars.  
3. Sift in the dry ingredients (both flours, cocoa, and baking powder). Mix until just combined.
4. Fold in the squash and the chocolate chips.
5. Spoon batter into the loaf pan or muffin tins.
6. Bake the loaf for 65-75 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. If making muffins, bake for about 25 minutes.
7. Let cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then run a butter knife around the edges (if necessary) and move the bread to a cooling rack.

Calories 232, Total Fat 6.2 g, Cholesterol 46 mg, Sodium: 266 mg, Protein 5.2 g, Fiber 3.1 g

Ordinarily, I'm all about substituting and using the things I actually have around the house, if at all possible. But, the chef's note on the original recipe warns against substituting other types of squash for the patty pan because of different water content.

I chose to fill a 6 muffin tin and then put the rest in a loaf pan. That made my own "servings" count a little weird. But the muffins will bake up much more quickly than the loaf, which is perfect for an impatient someone like me.

Do you see the colorful flowers in the periphery of those pictures? Those were from J -- his contribution to (me and) this recipe, making my photos look a little prettier.

*After writing this entire paragraph about Wiener Fest, I realized that I spelled wiener incorrectly. All of the wieners were wrong.
**This is officially the most I have ever used the word wiener. Ever. In a post that was supposed to primarily be about chocolate, even. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014


In honor of J's recent visit, I think I should start by saying that there is a blister on the inside of my dominant pointer finger. CHOPPING SQUASH. This blister is truly the gift that keeps on giving because it gets squished every time I pick up a fork. So... it gets squished pretty often.

There's proof that this recipe calls for quite a bit of chopping. It is a reminder that (1) I dislike chopping and (2) I REALLY DISLIKE chopping onion and (3) J is really good at chopping.

Unfortunately for J, this ratatouille was chopped, cooked, and down the hatch before he ever got here.

I chose to make this recipe in order to use up more of my CSA box veggies. Ratatouille is always good for that. It's a vegetable stew of sorts, generally containing tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and squash. I love it because it contains a TON of veggies and it is a pretty adaptable recipe. Use up whatever you have! Only have canned tomatoes? Go ahead! Who actually keeps a dried herbes de Provence blend, you ask? Toss in some extra thyme, oregano, and rosemary! What the hell is patty pan squash? Google it (or use a zucchini)! The addition of the patty pan squash was a new one for me, too, and it turned out wonderfully.

The measurements here are also pretty forgiving, so don't be afraid to use more or less than the suggested ingredients. Just BE SURE to adjust your seasonings. The first time I made a ratatouille recipe, it came out pretty bland. All of those veggies are glorious, of course. But they need salt (and other stuff) for this union to work.

Traditionally, ratatouille is served as a side dish, but I love to eat it as a full meal. Feel free to add a protein of your choice (white beans would be my recommendation, but something like ground beef or turkey would also do the trick).


Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 40 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ - ½ cup vegetable broth, divided
1 tsp dried herbes de Provence blend
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 small eggplant, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 small patty pan squash, chopped (about 1 cup)
1-2 small bell peppers, any color, chopped (about 1 cup)
½ pint grape tomatoes, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 small yellow squash, chopped (about 1 cup)
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground pepper
1 tablespoon fresh Italian (flat leaf) parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh basil, finely chopped
18 oz tube prepared polenta
Grated parmesan cheese, optional

1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sauté onions and garlic until translucent (about 4-5 minutes).
2. Add ¼ cup vegetable broth directly to the onion mixture to deglaze the pan.
3. Add dried herbs, fresh thyme, eggplant, patty pan squash, and bell pepper. Cook for 10 minutes.  
4. Add tomatoes, yellow squash, salt and pepper to the pan. . If mixture appears dry, add additional ¼ cup broth. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until squash and eggplant are tender. 
5. While vegetables are cooking, preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Slice polenta into ¼” rounds and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 20 minutes, sprinkling with parmesan during the last 5 minutes of baking time, if desired.
6. Mix parsley and basil into ratatouille vegetable mixture. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.
7. Divide polenta rounds onto four plates and top each serving with ¼ of the ratatouille and a sprinkle of parmesan, if desired.

Calories 187, Total Fat 3.9 g, Cholesterol 1 mg, Sodium: 414 mg, Protein 4.1 g, Fiber 3.2 g

Seriously, I think that every time I make this dish, I like it better and better. Or perhaps I've become a better cook in the last five years. ;)

Finally, I encourage you all to take a moment some time today and just appreciate how it feels to NOT have a blister on your pointer finger. Just do it.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Double Sweet Potato Lentil Curry


Aaaahhhhh. Autumn. It's that beautiful time of year in the south when the temperature dramatically dips into the 80's and we begin craving all things cozy and pumpkin and spiced and comforting. Down here in Texas, there are a good many few of us who can't wait to slip into turtleneck sweaters. Amiright?? J/K. Lolz.

Actually, the weather is quite lovely in the mornings. Newton and I can run a solid 2 miles without alarming passers-by that one of us might overheat and die at any moment. So, our seasons here are a little screwy, but I accept you for YOU, Texas weather!

One of the many great things about my little CSA box, is that I don't have to think about what veggies are in season or out of season (despite the weather). The box just tells me.

Last week, my delivery included sweet potato greens, yellow squash, sweet potatoes, red potatoes, bell peppers, eggplant, okra, onion, patty pan squash, and spaghetti squash. I was able to use three of those items in the recipe I'm sharing today, adapted from smitten kitchen and The NY Times.

What do I mean by double sweet potato? I used the one huge sweet potato along with the sweet potato greens. If you look at the recipes from SK and the NYT, you'll notice that they both used Swiss chard. The fact is, you can use any greens at all. Spinach. Kale. Turnip. Just get 'em in there.

This dish is warm and lovely. Some notes to make it a success:

  • There are a lot of ingredients on this list, and a bit of chopping, but I assure you that the cooking part is easy.
  • The trick is to get the lentils cooked through all the way. No one likes a crunchy lentil. No one.
  • If you don't have garam masala on hand but you do have a plethora of spices, just make your own blend. See my version below the recipe box.  
  • Don't skip the lime. 

Double Sweet Potato
& Lentil Curry

Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 45 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
½ jalapeno, minced
1 teaspoon garam masala*
1 teaspoon curry powder
3-4 cups vegetable broth, divided
1 lb sweet potato, peeled and chopped into ½” cubes
¾ cup dried lentils (I used green)
1 bay leaf
2 packed cups chopped sweet potato greens
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground pepper
1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped
2 scallions, chopped
1 lime, zested

1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sauté onions until translucent (about 4 minutes).
2. Add garlic, ginger, jalapeno, garam masala and curry powder. Sauté for 1 minute.
3. Add 3 cups broth, sweet potato, lentils, and bay leaf. Turn heat to HI, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium. Cover and simmer for 25 minutes. 
4. Add sweet potato greens, salt and pepper. If lentils look dry, add remaining vegetable broth.
5. Cook for 20 minutes longer, or until lentils and potatoes are tender.
6. Serve topped with scallion, lime zest, and lime wedge.

Calories 220, Total Fat 4.0 g, Cholesterol 0 mg, Sodium: 1138 mg, Protein 5.7 g, Fiber 7.0 g

* Garam Masala: (this makes just enough for the recipe above, adapted from here)

  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/8 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground cardamom
  • very scant 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • very scant 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

Aaaaaannnnndddd... Finally, DON'T WORRY ABOUT THAT SODIUM. The recipe calculator likely used a high sodium broth. To ensure your sodium intake isn't through the roof, I'd recommend using a low sodium veggie broth.

Happy fall, ya'll!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

"Everything" White Bean Hummus

Bagels. I haven't bought a package of bagels in quite some time, but my favorite is always the "everything" kind. You may chalk it up to my notable indecisiveness, but why choose simply "onion" or "poppy seed" or "sesame seed" when you can have ALL THE BAGELS!?

Oh, that's right. I don't have a toaster.

So no bagels. But what about this Everything White Bean Hummus recipe? After making it, I think I actually prefer the more traditional garbanzo bean hummus, but this recipe was an interesting change of pace.

From the original recipe, I chose to cut down on the oil and salt just a bit, and to add some lemon juice. I have it on medical authority that decreasing salt in my own diet isn't a good idea (hello, hypotension), but there is plenty of seasoning in the "everything" mix that I felt it salty enough.

White Bean Hummus

Prep time: 15 min (or 60 minutes, if you need time to roast the garlic)
Yield: Enough for 6-8 people as an appetizer

2 cans white beans (cannellini or great northern), drained and rinsed
1 head of roasted garlic
½ small lemon, juiced
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

2 tablespoons dried minced onion
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds (I used black sesame)
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1 tablespoon dried minced garlic
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

crudité or pita for serving

1. Dump white beans and roasted garlic into a food processor with lemon juice. Pulse until smooth.
2. With the processor running, stream in the olive and sesame oils.
3. Mix seasoning ingredients together.
4. Fold about ½ of the seasoning ingredients into the hummus. Sprinkle the remaining seasoning on top, to taste.

Calories 234, Total Fat 12.1 g, Cholesterol 0 mg, Sodium: 297mg, Protein 8.1 g, Fiber 5.2 g

It makes quite a bit of seasoning, so I had extra to sprinkle on salads and grilled cheese sandwiches. I think I still have a bit in the pantry! Try it!

Now... if I could only find my battery charger for the camera, I'd get started on the cocoa chai roasted almonds I made last weekend.  Sigh. Unpacking. Gah.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Smoothie Bowl

Since my last post:

  • I moved (a long way). 
  • I started a new job (the "big kid" kind). 
  • I took a huge exam (nailed it). 
  • I joined a new CSA (deliveries start next week). 
  • And I started a new fitness challenge (#100byHalloween). 

As for all that unpacking that was supposed to happen in August? Still only half finished. (But hey - we can't win 'em all.)

I'll be honest and say that I haven't really been adventurous in the kitchen in the past couple of months. Firstly, with only myself to cook for, I do tend to get a little lazy. And ya'll don't care about my lazy food. Second, I can't find my toaster. Do I use a toaster for many recipes, you ask? No. But I can't remember if I even packed it up or if I simply tossed it out in the heat of the crucial "I DON'T CARE WHAT COMES TO TEXAS ANYMORE" days of Ames.

So how 'bout some smoothies? No toaster required.

I have been on this "smoothie bowl" kick for a couple of weeks now. Mainly, the pictures of these beauties on Instagram are a huge inspiration factor. You should check them out (also try here). Gorgeous breakfast soup.

Normally, I like to liquefy my smoothies to a point where they are more like juice. The Nutribullet lets me do that fairly quickly with the addition of water. The smoothie bowl, however, should probably be of thicker consistency so that you can spoon it up without having to slurp it. Unless slurping is your thing.

The first bowl I invented was a twist on my "Everyday Breakfast Smoothie" which is fresh kale blended with frozen fruit (pineapple, peach, mango, and strawberry) and water. I topped this with fresh mango, unsweetened (dried) coconut, rolled oats, and chia seeds.

The second edition was this frozen fruit smoothie (same blend as above) topped with something called "chia pudding" and fresh raspberries. Chia pudding is basically just soaked chia seeds. Remember those "ch-ch-ch CHIA! Pets" from the 80s? Same seeds. I soaked 1/4 cup chia seeds in 1 cup regular almond milk with a dash of cinnamon overnight. You have to stir it up a bit so it doesn't clump, but I find this to be a nice, weird textural addition to the smoothie bowl. And, most importantly, it looks cool.

Finally, my post-SundayRunday smoothie from this morning. Here, I have a new frozen fruit blend (pineapple, cantaloupe, grapes, peach, and strawberry), layered with the rest of the chia pudding and topped with fresh raspberries and unsweetened coconut.

I actually made some green smoothie with spinach to layer into today's breakfast, but I was afraid the colors would run.... and that wouldn't be so pretty. So I drank it separately! How's that for taking one for the team?

Anyone else out there on the smoothie bowl bus?