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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Stuffed Turban Squash

I had bought this big turban squash originally as an autumn decoration- I just thought it was pretty, and had no idea whether it is normally eaten. Then the time for pumpkins, gourds and bales of hay passed, and the squash was still looking fabulous. I thought it would be a shame to throw it out if it hadn't gone past it's prime. So I googled "stuffed turban squash recipes"... and only came up with one. Aaaand it was a no-go, being primarily stuffed with sausage. So, I came up with my own, and as large as the dish came out, we demolished it and my husband was asking for more. I would say that is a success!

I used adzuki beans as that's what I had on hand. They are often used in Japanese cooking, both in savory dishes and desserts. They work well with the sweetness of the brown sugar, cranberries, carrots, and the flesh from the squash. This made a lot of extra stuffing, about double what I needed. Fine by me- it just means one less meal to cook later if you freeze or refrigerate it.

Also, I didn't have any chestnuts or hazelnuts, but I think roasting some, roughly chopping them, and throwing them into the mix would be awesome.

Stuffed Turban Squash 

1 large turban squash- I think mine was about 4 pounds
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 cups wild rice
1 cup adzuki beans
1/2 cup dried cranberries
4 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (I used my own, ground up from stale sourdough bread)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cut off top of squash (like you would a pumpkin) and scoop out the stringy flesh and seeds. (I just threw the seeds out this time, but you could roast them the way you would butternut squash or pumpkin seeds.) Place the squash cut side down on an oiled baking pan. Roast for an hour or until flesh is tender. Scoop out the flesh and set aside.

3. Rinse beans and rice and put it all in a large pot. (Check beans for stones.) Cover with enough water to boil (about 6 cups.) Boil until both rice and beans are cooked. Drain off any excess water.

4. In a skillet, saute the onion and carrots in the coconut oil on high until onion is translucent and carrot is tender. Add 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar and stir to coat, allowing the mixture to caramelize slightly.

5. Toss the rice, beans, scooped squash flesh, carrot/onion mixture, cranberries, salt, pepper and the remainder of the brown sugar until just combined. Scoop the mixture back into the empty squash. Top with breadcrumbs, and place the top of the turban back on. Put the whole monster back in the oven for a half hour, again at 350 degrees.

Any excess stuffing can be placed alongside the squash if there is room, or in a separate oven-safe pan. I froze whatever didn't fit for later. Good thing, even both kids ate this without me pleading- that's hard to come by!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Cranberry Walnut Bread

Bread may not be the healthiest thing to eat in large quantities, but at least it is easily made vegan, right? With the weather cooling way way way down, I feel like I am missing out if two days go by without baking something. Yea, I get something tasty in the process, but it also heats up the house a bit and makes it smell amazing.

This bread came about because I love cranberries and walnuts. I love them together and separately. I am a huge fan of cranberry sauce (only homemade.) I love both cranberries and walnuts in desserts. But I didn't want a dessert bread- I wanted a mostly savory (with a touch of sweetness) yeast based bread with a soft inside and crusty outside. I wanted a bread I could use for breakfast, lunch or dinner, that could be used in sandwiches, and I wanted it to contain cranberries and walnuts. I didn't want the inside to be very dense, glutinous or chewy- I thought the cranberries and walnuts would add some heft, so I wanted to keep it airy. My Google searches did not turn up anything that fit all my specific criteria in recipe form, so here is what I came up with! And bonus- there is NO KNEADING. (For those who hate kneading.)

Cranberry Walnut Bread (yeast-based, mostly savory, no knead)

3 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1 2/3 cups warm water (110 degrees)
2 teaspoons-2 tablespoons honey (to desired sweetness)
2 tablespoons oil (I used olive oil, but sunflower oil would work as well)
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup walnuts, chopped

1. Combine everything in a large bowl and mix well to combine. The dough will be more of a batter than a bread dough (a little wet and sticky). It will be shaggy and hard to work with. This is ok, there is no kneading. Just make sure it is mixed as well as possible.

2. Cover the bowl with a wet kitchen towel and set it in a draft-free warm area. (TIP: the oven turned off with the light on is PERFECT for rising dough. It is just warm enough.) Let rise for four hours, or until doubled in size and quite bubbly.

3. Transfer the dough/batter to an ungreased loaf pan, it will probably deflate a bit as you do this. Cover with the wet kitchen towel and let it rise again, until the dough reaches slightly above the sides of the pan; this took about three hours for me.

4. Preheat the (now empty) oven to 450 degrees. Put the pan on the middle rack and bake for 30 minutes, or until the top is brown.

5. When the loaf looks done, pull it out of the oven and immediately pop it out of the pan. The loaf needs to release moisture. Tap the bottom, it should feel cooked, not moist, and it should sound a bit hollow. Let it cool before slicing.

Friday, November 2, 2012

A Different Take on Potato Salad

Normally I hate mayonnaise-based recipes. You know, tuna salad, potato salad, macaroni salad. (That last one is the worst- it is almost always elbow macaroni and looks like worms swimming in cream. *shudder*) I don't like mayo on sandwiches- if it is there, it has to be so thinly spread I would miss it. 

Potatoes though, in other applications, are a different story. I love baked potatoes, au gratin, mashed potatoes, etc. So I want to like potato salad, the mayo just gets in the way. 

Well I had a nearly full bag of them and nothing planned for dinner. I checked the fridge and saw a creamy artichoke dip waiting to be loved, too. Light bulb moment!

Potato Salad with Artichoke Spinach Dip and Caramelized Onions

  • 8 potatoes (I used Russet, but I think any potato that holds up to boiling and won't fall apart easily would work. Red and blue potatoes would make good choices.)
  • 2 onions
  • 2 teaspoons sunflower or coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup raw cashews (unsoaked) OR 2 avocados. (Avocados may give you a smoother texture, depending on your blender.)
  • 3/4 cup plain unsweetened almond milk 
  • 3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1-2 medium-large cloves garlic
  • 3/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp dry (ground) mustard
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 cups frozen artichoke hearts, partially thawed (helps for pulsing in blender)
  • 2 cups (loosely packed) spinach leaves

Clean and chop potatoes to bite size pieces. (I left skin on, but you can peel them if it bothers you.) Throw them all in a big pot and cover with water. Boil until fork tender. Drain and set aside. 
Roughly chop the onions. Heat a skillet over medium high heat with the oil and add the chopped onions. Stir to coat. Let them cook down and brown, but be careful not to burn or dry them out. Turn down the heat to medium if necessary. This may take a half hour to an hour, stirring occasionally. When they are brown, pull them off the burner. 
In a blender, first add cashews (or avocados), milk, lemon juice, garlic, salt, dry mustard, and pepper.  Blend until very smooth. Add artichokes and spinach and just pulse to combine- keep some texture. Optional: Transfer to a baking dish and bake 15 minutes, just to warm through. Or use it cold. 
Transfer everything to a large bowl- the potatoes, onions and the dip. You may not want all the dip, depending on the ratio of potato to creaminess that you prefer. Toss everything to coat. Traditional potato salad is served cold. This is good warm or cold, in my opinion. We ate it alongside a green salad.