Monday, September 26, 2011

fall! (means comfort food)

Fall has arrived! (at least chronologically, if not meteorologically...the weather in Nashville has been alternating between summer and fall) I love the changing of the seasons, and fall might be my favorite one. The colors, the activities, the food...just soak it all in.

I had both an acorn squash and a butternut squash on hand this week (thank you again, CSA, for making me exercise culinary creativity), so I roasted them together and let my imagination take it from there. First I made a version of this recipe for farro with acorn squash and kale (delicious, but not exactly pretty), and then I used my butternut squash for something resembling mac and cheese.  This recipe is not quite as cheesy and hopefully a little bit healthier, but it is still top notch comfort food!

I had something like this for the first time last fall, when my sister made this recipe. I'm not sure why I didn't make it myself until last night, but I'll certainly be making it again.  About 17385 other food bloggers have posted a version of a butternut squash mac and cheese recipe, so this isn't exactly new, but it may be new to you.

I had my pasta bake as part of the first "homestyle" meal (meat, vegetable, starch) I'd eaten in awhile, and I could not believe how satisfied I felt afterwards! The dish can certainly stand alone as a vegetarian main course, but I had mine with chicken and green peas last night, which are also featured in one of the photos below. I think I'll have leftovers again tonight, and I'm actually looking forward to it. I think that says a lot!

P.S. - With my remaining cup of butternut squash, I think I'm either going to try this bread or these cookies. If anyone has other suggestions, please share!

the best part!

cheesy butternut pasta bake
adapted from Martha Stewart
serves 6 as a main course, 12 as a side
per large serving:  460.2 cal, 10.2g fat, 63g carb, 11.2g fiber, 27.4g protein, 12+ weight watchers

16 oz whole wheat pasta (I used spirals)
3 c cooked mashed butternut squash (I roasted mine)
2 eggs
1 c skim milk
1 c fat-free cottage cheese or ricotta
4 oz cheddar cheese, grated
1 oz parmesan, grated
1/2 tsp salt
pinch of cayenne pepper
pinch of nutmeg
1/2 c breadcrumbs or cracker crumbs (Ritz are the best!)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and butter a large casserole. (I used one that was about 8 x 12; it just depends on how thick you want it!)

Boil pasta until al dente, according to package directions; drain.

Combine squash, eggs, milk, cheeses, salt, and spices in a large bowl. Add pasta to squash mixture and mix until combined. Transfer mixture to casserole and top with crumbs. Bake until top is crispy and edges are browned, 40-50 minutes. Add salt and black pepper to taste.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Just a lovely little thing I read.

One of the best parts about studying what I'm studying is that just when I think I can't read anymore, something lovely pops up out of the blue. I think I'll start posting these snippets whenever I come across them. (Also, what do you know, this particular quotation talks about food! This was bound to happen.)

"The urgency of the times calls for a return to a great simplicity that would permit us to look upon life that surrounds us with all its beauty and ugliness, with all its comedy and tragedy, in all its sweetness and bitterness as having potential for global change.

"This spirituality is like the wholesome food found in the home, that simple food that one relishes so much because it does us immense good. It is the spirituality of being attentive to the other, of mutual support, of sharing of joys and sorrows, of sharing of problems and search for solutions. At the moment these little things are important until the so-called 'big things' come our way."

-Ivone Gebara, "A Cry for Life from Latin America"

Saturday, September 17, 2011

microwaves are magical.

We're reading Augustine's Confessions for my Formation of the Christian Tradition class, and this has inspired me to make my own public confession. Today I did something I have not done since college...I bought Lean Cuisines. (Gotcha! This will not be a theologically-themed post.)

I'm coming up on Week 5 (I think it deserves the capitalization) of class, and as my time spent reading, writing papers, and working increases, my time in the kitchen decreases an equivalent amount. For the most part I've continued to subsist off of fresh produce, grains, and beans (cheap!), but sometimes you just need a meal that only requires you to pierce plastic with a fork.

Anyway, the recipe I have today is a cross between freshness and convenience. Thanks to my friend Hailey, I happened across this method for microwaving potato chips on Pinterest. I was skeptical but tried it anyway, and it really did work. This week my CSA box has a few sweet potatoes in it so I made a batch of chips with one of those, seasoned with olive oil, sea salt, black pepper, and fresh rosemary. I had them for lunch with what I'm calling an early fall BLT, with tomatoes (still sort of in-season!), thick-cut bacon, sauteed kale, and lemon-garlic mayo. Yum.

The chips taste like they're baked rather than fried, but they are about as crunchy as kettle chips, which I love. They're a great option if you want something snacky but not junky. You can change these up with whatever flavors you'd like, and serve them with a dip if you want--they're definitely sturdy enough to handle it. Here are a few flavor suggestions:

-sweet potato chips with cinnamon and sugar and a side of maple syrup
-regular potato chips with seasoned salt and a side of ketchup (easy, and a good substitute for seasoned fries!)
-potato chip "nachos" with bacon, cheddar, sour cream, and scallions (not exactly healthy, but I bet they would be delicious!)

microwaved (sweet) potato chips
makes about two servings, easily multiplied
per serving:  88 cal, 2.4g fat, 15.8g carb, 2g fiber, 1.1g protein, 2+ weight watchers 

1 medium potato or sweet potato, sliced into thin disks (a mandolin would be helpful
   here, although mine turned out fine without one)
1 tsp oil
seasoning of your choice

Toss potato slices with oil and seasoning, and place in a single layer a microwable dish (I used a casserole). Microwave on high for 2-3 minutes. Flip the slices over and microwave for another 2-4 minutes, keeping an eye on them to make sure they don't burn. Let cool--they will crisp up as they cool.