Friendly Food-Stuffed Squash

I had the opportunity to drive up to Boston from New York recently to spend the weekend with my friend Tracy and her family. I was eager to have some time on the open road, listening to my music while spotting all  of the Fall colors in the trees, a mini little road trip all for me…..and it turns out every other person with a car and a desire to really see Fall. Tracy told me that this time of year there are a lot of “Leaf Lookers” which clogged up the roads, tweaking my desire to drive on the open road.

I arrived at Tracy’s house just in time for dinner, which was great because after the long ride I was ready! Tracy had been wanting to try a stuffed squash recipe and had all the ingredients ready to go. What a perfect “Friendly Food” opportunity!

We started by halving the squash, cleaning out the seeds and roasting them in the oven cut side down for about 30 minutes. On the stovetop we browned the sausage with onions, garlic and olive oil, once that was fully cooked we added piles of fresh kale to wilt down into the mixture. We poured in some white wine and some chicken broth to help the kale soften and simmer.

This mixture was then spooned into the roasted squash halves and topped with breadcrumbs and parmesan and tossed back into the oven to broil.

This meal was the perfect fall comfort food and it was healthy as well! If I was cooking Thanksgiving dinner I would consider adding this to the menu. Everyone loved it except Tracy’s eight year old son Chris who opted to not even try it. I can’t say that I blame him, it looked very vegetable-y which has never been a hot ticket item at that age.

Tracy is such a whiz in the kitchen, she didn’t use or need a recipe. I have compiled a makeshift recipe here:

Ingredients:
Sausage
Onions
Garlic
Kale
White Wine (for both you and the pan)
Chicken Broth
Bread Crumbs
Parmesan cheese – grated
Squash

Directions:
Halve and clean the squash. In the oven roast the squash cut side down for thirty minutes or until soft.
Brown the sausage, mix in onion and garlic. Once fully cooked add the kale to the top of the mixture along with some white wine and chicken stock.
Spoon the sausage kale mixture into the squash halves. Top with breadcrumbs and parmesan and broil until golden.

 

Friendly Food – Getting Sauced!

There is what seems to be a war against pasta and bread, it has infiltrated my daily food choices but there will always be a place in my heart and mouth for an amazing bowl of pasta.

My friends Matt and Jenny invited me over to their house to get saucy (I can’t help myself). They regularly make three different sauces and freeze them for future use. I have always been the Prego sort of girl so this was a great opportunity to learn how to make real sauce using real ingredients.

On our chopping block this evening were the ingredients for Pesto, Red Sauce and a Puttanesca.

I was tasked with rinsing/removing the seeds from the canned tomatoes for one of the recipes. This seemed like a pretty safe job to give me, I grabbed the tomatoes out of the colander in the sink, rinsed them, seeded them and then placed them in the bowl. I moved quickly and when I was done I cleaned up my work area, it wasn’t until moments later when Jenny was looking for the tomato juice that I realized I dumped out the entire pot containing the juice in my attempt to clean up after myself. As Jenny was walking around the kitchen looking for the missing pot I had to take ownership of my mistake. Hey guys, invite me over to learn and cook dinner with you, but be prepared as I am going to randomly throw out ingredients that we need.

They were good humored about it and another can was opened and the process repeated itself, with better end results.

It was obvious while working among Matt and Jenny and their two boys Liam and Zander that this wasn’t their first time cooking together. The kitchen was buzzing with the energy and love of a family spending time together. I am thankful that they invited me to join them.

One of the greatest things about my Friendly Food series is getting to learn new recipes AND to sit down with my friends and their family after our kitchen time to a delicious meal, which nourishes both my body and my heart.

Thank you so much Jenny and Matt for such a lovely evening!

It took me a bit of time to write this post, I am spending the Fall in NYC and got caught up in fun activities such as joining Matt for a Snoop Dog show.

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Caught up with Matt and Snoop Dog in NYC!

Caught up with Matt and Snoop Dog in NYC!

Pantry Friendly Tomato Sauce by Alton Brown

Ingredients
2 (28-ounce) cans whole, peeled tomatoes
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 onion
1 carrot
1 stalk celery
2 ounces olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup white wine
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

Directions:
Strain the tomatoes of their juice into the sauce pot. Add the sherry vinegar, sugar, red pepper flakes, oregano, and basil to the tomato juice. Stir and cook over high heat. Once bubbles begin to form on the surface, reduce to a simmer. Allow liquid to reduce by 1/2 or until liquid has thickened to a loose syrup consistency.
Squeeze each tomato thoroughly to ensure most seeds are removed. Set the tomatoes aside.
Cut carrot, onion, and celery into uniform sizes and combine with olive oil and garlic in a non-reactive roasting pan over low heat. Sweat the mirepoix until the carrots are tender and the onion becomes translucent, 15 to 20 minutes. Add the tomatoes and capers to the roasting pan.

Place roasting pan on the middle rack of the oven and broil for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Tomatoes should start to brown slightly on edges with light caramelization. Remove the pan from the broiler. Place the pan over 2 burners on the stove. Add the white wine to the tomatoes and cook for 2 to 3 more minutes over medium heat.

Put the tomatoes into a deep pot or bowl and add the reduced tomato liquid to the tomatoes. Blend to desired consistency and adjust seasoning.

Pesto

Ingredients:
1/4 cup olive oil
7/8 ounce pine nuts
1/4 pound fresh basil leaves
20 grams garlic, chopped
35 grams parmesan cheese, grated
3/8 tablespoon lemon juice
1/8 tablespoon kosher salt
1/4 tablespoon peppercorns, crushed

Directions: Place one-third of the olive oil in a blender and add the remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth. Add the remaining olive oil and blend.

Yield: 1 cup

Puttanesca
Ingredients:
100 grams garlic
8oz anchovy filet
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
600g sundried tomato
112 ounces crushed tomato
600 grams kalamata olives
150 grams capers
30 leaves basil
1 tsp sugar
14 oz tomato paste

Directions: (ingredients were hand written on a piece of paper, I took directions from Emeril Lagasse)
Heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onion and saute until soft and lightly caramelized, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook an additional 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and the remaining ingredients and simmer until the sauce is thickened and slightly reduced, about 40 minutes.

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Friendly Food – Let me see that Sushi Roll!

sushi 4Today’s Friendly Food is brought to you by my good friends Sara & Jesse Arthur. I had the privilege of living next door to them for several months, those poor souls had no choice when it came to this project of mine, they were hosting whether they liked it or not, luckily they pretended they liked it.

I had never considered rolling my own sushi, I mean I didn’t think I could ever better my “Mr. Perfect” roll at Seattle’s Umi Sake House, my mouth is salivating as I speak.

When I arrived I was immediately put to work stirring the rice, and cleaning and cutting the various ingredients, all a safe choice, very hard for me to mess that up! It turns out that it is very hard to mess up any part of this meal, everything was shockingly easy!

When all the items were prepped and laid out in front of us, like a painter with various colors and tools, we started creating our edible art! It was so easy and fun to grab the various items, throw it on the rice and then roll! It reminded me a bit of rolling a sleeping bag, being careful that nothing poked out the ends, making sure it was tight. It was so much fun to do various combos, getting better at my rolling technique and whipping out roll after roll!

IMG_1033aThe only thing that brought me greater joy than rolling the sushi was eating the sushi! Sara had pre-made an amazing Yokisoba salad as it had to sit for several hours before serving, the recipe is below.

I can’t wait until I have an opportunity to wow people with my new sushi skills! A huge thank you to my hosts Sara & Jesse!

Sushi Rolls
Cooked Sushi Rice (one batch with Kirin Wine, one batch with coconut milk)
Nori, Smoked Halibut, Smoked Salmon, Papaya, Mango, Green Onion, Cucumber
Cream Cheese, Cilantro, Avocado, Kiwi

Bamboo Sushi Mat

Spicy Yakisoba Noodle Salad
3 packages Yakisoba noodles (rinse in lukewarm water to separate)
1 large red pepper chopped finely
4 cloves pressed fresh garlic
4 sprigs green onion finely chopped
1 bunch of cilantro chopped
3 carrots peeled and grated
1 tbsp sesame oil
3 tbp Sriracha sauce™
Sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds
Toss the ingredients together and chill for 2-3 hours.

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Friendly Food – Ginger Chicken and Broccoli

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I am embarrassed, it has taken me as long to write this blog post as it would have to wash the dishes from this meal when I was in college. I really let things marinate.

I invited myself over to my friend Patti’s house to cook up some “Friendly Food”, I knew I would be in good hands as she has always provided me with healthy eats. It was great catching up with Patti who is a Board Member at The Woodland Park Zoo and is the Executive Co-Chair and responsible for gathering a crew of amazing ladies to aid her in launching this year’s Jungle Party “Show Your Stripes”. Saving Tiger’s is what this lady is all about.

On the menu this night was Ginger Chicken and Broccoli from Against All Grain: Meals Made Simple by Danielle Walker. I had never heard of Danielle Walker so I hopped on her website and was truly inspired by her story, a self taught chef who used food to heal herself after a diagnosis with an autoimmune disease.

Danielle wanted to still enjoy the food she had prior to getting ill so she recreated her favorites while eliminating grains, gluten and dairy.

The meal was easy to prepare and cook and even easier to eat! If this is what Paleo, grain free eating tastes like I am sold!

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Ginger Chicken and Broccoli

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons expeller- pressed coconut oil or ghee, divided
6 cloves garlic, minced
1½ tablespoons peeled and minced fresh ginger
6 scallions, white parts only, chopped
2 heads broccoli, cut into florets
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat and cubed
1 cup coconut aminos
2 tablespoons toasted (or dark) sesame oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 large egg yolks

Directions:
1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the coconut oil in a wok or deep skillet over medium-high heat.
2. Add the garlic, ginger, and scallions. Stir constantly for 30 seconds.
3. Add the broccoli florets and continue cooking and stirring for 5 minutes, until the broccoli is bright green.
4. Transfer the vegetables to a plate and return the pan to the burner with the remaining 1 tablespoon of coconut oil.
5. Add the chicken and cook, stirring frequently, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the chicken is browned and cooked through.
6. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to the plate with the broccoli and return the pan and juices to the burner. If there is less than ¼ cup of liquid in the pan, add water or chicken broth to make ¼ cup.
7. Pour in the coconut aminos, sesame oil, and salt. Bring to a simmer.
8. Beat the egg yolks in a bowl. Temper the yolks by slowly pouring in ½ cup of the hot sauce while whisking constantly.
9. Pour the egg yolk mixture into the hot pan, then stir constantly for 3 minutes to thicken.
10. Add the chicken and vegetables back into the pan and stir to coat. Cook for an additional 7 to 10 minutes, until the chicken and broccoli are fully cooked.
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Friendly Food – Pizza

It is not uncommon for me to invite myself over to my friend Jason and Brenna Profit’s home for dinner. Jason is a good friend from college, and Brenna likes me enough that she allowed me to officiate their wedding several summers ago. :) That’s right, in addition to my ever growing culinary skills I am also a wedding officiant, technically I could invite myself over for Friendly Food one night and cap off the evening with dinner nuptials. Any takers??

Jason had prepared a menu of fresh baked pizzas using Trader Joe’s pizza dough. Honestly, I am fairly new at this whole cooking thing but I don’t know how healthy our meal really was. I am pretty sure the pizza dough was better than your average processed dough and the toppings consisted of fresh veggies and cheeses, but there was cheese and ham….everything in moderation they say, though, I did go back for additional slices.

There were two delicious pizzas that I helped Jason create, and by create I mean I occasionally popped up from my chair to spread sauce or add ingredients to the pizzas. The first had a tomato sauce with ham, onions, mushrooms (I insisted they were only on half, I am not a fan) mozzarella and topped with basil. The second pizza was an olive oil garlic base with goat cheese, prunes, and caramelized onions also topped with basil.

I brought ingredients for my favorite salad, mixed greens, wild smoked salmon, avocado (we had to nix this as it wasn’t ripe enough), apple and feta cheese.

I had no doubt that the evening was going to be fantastic, good food, good wine and even better friends! Also, it wasn’t a bad idea for us to do this prior to the arrival of their baby this summer!

Congrats and thanks Jason & Brenna!

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Forty.

I recently celebrated my 40th birthday. It didn’t sneak up on me, I knew it was coming, I had my eye on it for quite some time. I have had several moments within the past few months of anxiety, fear that I hadn’t checked off the things one is supposed to have checked off by this point.

I know this is cliche, what forty year old doesn’t freak out a little bit and reflect on what they have or have not accomplished in their life. I always thought I would be married to a loving husband with adorable children who would jump on our bed early on weekend mornings, glowing in a big bundle of pillow fighting love despite my fatigue. I would sit in churches proud of my young friends as they spoke their marriage vows, but was always wondering, “when is it my turn, why can’t I find that kind of love?”

In the past I made it my job to tell myself that I had somehow failed by not following the traditional life path, I felt ashamed, like I somehow made a misstep, chose the wrong fork in the road or worse yet that there was something drastically wrong with me.

I remember a conversation with a good friend of mine the week of my birthday, I was ticking off all the things I didn’t have; a husband, children and a home, you know the American Dream, I was sad, morose and he smiled at me and said “but you don’t really want those things right now, so why is it bothering you that you don’t have them?” It was the verbal slap/hug that I needed, he was right I was happy without those things.

I find myself constantly vacillating between what I truly want in life and playing nice with what society expects of me. I did at one point want to follow the rules of the road, but through time and experiences I have adapted and today, continue to tweak things to create a life that is one that I want to live.

Cheers to the next forty and to continuing to follow the path to health & happiness!

P.S. – I had a “Wigging Out” 40th birthday party, the pictures below give a glimpse into some of the spectacular people I share this life with!

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Friendly Food – Thai Tofu Salad Wraps

I remember as if it was yesterday, having just moved back to Seattle I was looking for a new hair stylist. I was sitting in a chair nervously glancing around at the surrounding stylists with brightly colored hair and tattoos, the cape was already snapped around my neck making a run for it difficult. My new stylist, Jennifer Cassady, sensed my unease, placed her hand on my shoulder and said “we do normal too”. A friendship was born and twelve-ish years later I am standing in her kitchen asking her to teach me her favorite recipe.

I arrived at Jenn’s house and Parker her five year old opened the door, greeted me and before long was taking me on a full house tour. It was time to get down to the business at hand, dinner. Jenn had already pre-marinated the tofu making this a very easy meal to create.

We placed the marinated tofu cubes into the oven to broil for fifteen minutes, taking the time to turn them every five minutes. While the tofu was broiling we prepped the salad ingredients. Easy peasy, clean, chop and toss.

I think the most difficult part of the meal was creating the salad dressing, and by difficult I mean it was more involved than opening a salad dressing bottle and pouring, I actually had to zest!

We were able to squeeze in a game of Cat in the Hat before dinner, that had me jumping around a thingamastick with Parker while Miller headed to bed.

Dinner, was delicious! It was vegetarian, fresh and filling! We took individual lettuce leafs and filled them taco style with our salad mix and marinated tofu.

Since the end of my road trip I have really been missing these moments, hanging out with friends in their space, playing with their kids, really getting to know them, getting a glance at their home life, Friendly Food is giving me a chance to continue connecting with my friends and for that I am grateful!

On another note….if you are looking for a great hair stylist/salon check out Jenn’s new salon Arrow Hair & Beauty located downtown Seattle.

Tofu Marinade:
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for broiling
2 tablespoons Thai red chili paste
2 teaspoons sugar

Salad Items:
1 head living lettuce
2  cups cubed cucumbers
2 cups green beans, chopped
2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup chopped fresh Thai Basil leaves
Cilantro leaves for garnish
1 small Thai red chile, seeded and thinly sliced, for garnish

Dressing:
Juice of 2 limes, plus zest of 1 lime
3 tablespoons fish sauce
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

http://www.shutterbean.com/2014/thai-chopped-salad-with-tofu/

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Thai Tofu Salad recipe Tofu Marinade Recipe