Sunday, September 30, 2012

Foodie Pen Pal Reveal Day: August and September

Guess what today is!?

Foodie Penpal reveal day of course!

Don't know what that is?

Well.  It's a wonderful little program started by Lindsay over at The Lean Green Bean.  If you like getting mail, if you like getting mail with food inside, if you like meeting other foodies from around the country, and if you like sharing your favorite foods with other foodies then this program is for you!  Here's a quick rundown:
  • On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact each other and get mailing addresses and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
  • You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal!
  • The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
  • You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
  • Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month. *US Residents only please at this time- hopefully we can expand soon!*
This month I'm including my August and September packages since I was in Missouri in August and didn't quite get it in time for reveal day!

Last month I was paired with Montel.  Unfortunately, I didn't learn too much about her but I do know that she puts together a fabulous package!

1. Lemon Black Pepper Crackers: These things were destroyed within 24 hours of receiving them.  I made an artichoke jalapeno veggie dip and these provided the perfect vehicle for that dip!
2. Guacamole Dip Mix: Typically I make homemade guacamole and steer clear of mixes but I now have two guacamole mixes and I'm thinking I might have to do a "Guacamole Mix Off" to determine a winner.
3. Soft Dried Plums: Whoever named these "dried" plums was so mistaken.  These are the most delicious, juicy, soft "dried" fruit I've ever had.  I need to know if they make anything other than plums?  Surely they do.
4. Harvest Grains Blend: I loooove this stuff.  It's from Trader Joes but somehow I've never seen it.  So thanks Montel for opening my eyes!  I used it in this {Stuffed Butternut Squash} and it was to die for! A must purchase next time you make your way to Trader Joes!

5. Roasted Seasoned Seaweed: I hate to admit it, but I'm just not a fan of seaweed.  I'm typically not picky and will munch on the weirdest of things but...I just can't do this one.  I passed it off to a seaweed lover and made him a very happy one!
6. Tomato Paste: This is my go to tomato paste so it's great to have another one!  Trader Joes is genius for making a tube of tomato paste with a cap instead of those pesky cans!
7. GreenSuperFood and Wheat Grass Drink Powder: I've yet to try this stuff but it looks interesting!  Does anyone have suggestions what to mix it into?  It looks uber healthy!
8. Flower Pepper: Last but not least.  I love Trader Joes grinders.  And this one is no exception.  I've been using it on everything!

This month I was paired with another fellow Massachusetts resident!  This is my third foodie penpal from the area!  A great indication that New England looooves food.  No wonder I love this place.  April has two blogs (so ambitious!), the first one is Beyond the Small Gate where you can check out what's going on in her life as well as her many adventures.  The second is April's Mooseathon where you can read about her training escapades and vegan food swaps!  Go check it out!

1. Bonnievilles Cinnamon Ginger Power Cookie: So delicious!  My taste buds don't have a ton of experience with gluten free and dairy free cookies but this one was so tasty.  I love the combination of cinnamon and ginger especially at the beginning of fall.
2. Kit's Organic Fruit and Nut Bars: I haven't tried these yet but I'm definitely looking forward to it!  I love trying new fruit and nut bars.  Deciding which to try first is going to be quite the decision.  Berry Almond or Chocolate Almond Coconut?  Both sound scrumptious.

3. Poblano Pepper and Corn Chowder: I haven't had the chance to try this yet either but it sounds so good!  If all of this rainy/cold weather in Boston continues I'll be busting this out in no time.
4. Sing Buri Cashews: 1) I love cashews 2) I love asian flavors 3) I love cashews with asian flavors  4) Therefore, I LOVE these!  Seriously.  The tiny chunks of pineapple.  The yummy spices.  A little sweet, a little spicy.  Such a yummy snack!

A big thank you to Montel and April for sending such delicious goodies and of course to Lindsay for creating this fun program!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Roasted Acorn Squash Pizza with Ricotta and Parmesan

Is anyone noticing a pattern here?

Meal Plan Monday...Squash...Meal Plan Monday...More Squash...Random Dessert...Squash again.

It's starting to become a challenge at this point.  How many recipes can I post pertaining to squash before I burn out or start to disgust you?  I guess it wouldn't be wise to go that far.  But...I just learned that I still have blue hokkaido pumpkins, cinderella pumpkins, delicata squash, hubbard squash, kabocha squash, red kuri pumpkins, spaghetti squash, sugar pumpkins, sweet dumpling squash, turban squash, and white pumpkins to work with.

Uh...who knew there were so many options?

Seriously though.  This pattern will probably continue until you start protesting.  Over the next couple of weeks, you should expect to see an Oreo cake, possibly a roasted squash salad with a warm cider vinaigrette, probably some sort of apple dessert (to get rid of the 8 million apples in my kitchen), and something pertaining to the use of a sugar pumpkin.  Any suggestions or requests for the apples or sugar pumpkin?  I'm all ears.

I feel like I just pulled part of the classic powerpoint presentation move.  "Tell them what you're going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them."  Congratulations professors.  You've managed to work that one into my daily life.  Touché.

Moving to the pizza.

This thing is good.  I was incredibly impressed with the dough recipe from Smitten Kitchen.  I was a tad worried that since I adapted it to use whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose that it wouldn't come together well.  But I was wrong.  It was perfect.  And the pizza toppings just fell into place as I started grabbing things out of the refrigerator.  Which I encourage you to do as well.  As long as you tell me about your additions?  Deal?  Good.

Next time I want to add mushrooms (a mixture of cremini, oyster, and shiitake) to the sauteed onion/garlic mixture.  Mmmm.

roasted squash pizza with ricotta and parmesan

Makes: 2-4 servings   Prep Time: 20 minutes   Rise Time: 1 hour  Cook Time: 20-25 minutes (while dough is rising) + 25-30 minutes  Total Time: 1 hour 50 minutes

for the dough- Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
6 tablespoons warm water
2 tablespoons white wine 
3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
cornmeal for dusting

for the pizza-
1 1lb acorn squash
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 pizza dough recipe
1 small onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2-3/4 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese 
1 cup spinach 
squeeze of lemon juice

  1. For the dough- whisk wine, water and yeast in a medium bowl until yeast has dissolved.  Add honey, salt and olive oil and stir.  Add flour and work with a spoon or your hands until it comes together.  Add more water 1 tablespoon at a time if it seems too dry and won't come together.  Sprinkle some flour on the counter and knead the dough for a minute or two.  Place the dough in a bowl coated with olive oil and cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let it rise for at least one hour or up to two, until it has doubled.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Slice the squash in half from top to bottom and remove the seeds.  Cut each half into 1/2 inch sections and throw in a medium bowl.  Combine olive oil, balsamic, optional red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, and garlic powder in a small bowl and pour over the squash.  Toss well to coat.  Place squash on prepared baking sheet.  Bake until tender, about 20-25 minutes.  When done, remove squash and reduce oven heat to 375°
  3. While the squash is baking and the dough is rising, heat a small amount of olive oil in a pan and add onion and garlic.  Saute on medium-low heat until onions are transparent and very tender.  Remove from heat and set aside until the pizza is ready to be assembled.
  4. After the dough has doubled place it on a well floured counter and roll out until it's fairly thin. Sprinkle a small amount of cornmeal on a baking sheet or pizza stone and transfer dough onto it. 
  5. Cover dough with ricotta cheese, spreading evenly.  Top ricotta with sauteed onions and garlic, 1/2 teaspoon oregano, and Parmesan cheese.  Bake at 375° for 20-25 minutes, until crust is golden and cooked through and cheese is bubbly.
  6. Peel the skins off the squash and place the squash on top of the cooked pizza.  Top with spinach and a squeeze of lemon juice.
  7. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Homemade Oreo Cookies

I promised you an oreo cake last week.

Remember that?

Did I tell you that homemade oreos would also be involved?

It's true.  I wouldn't lie about such things.

Last Friday, one of my dearest friends finally turned 21.  Which is quite the occasion if you ask me.  And pretty big occasions provide the best excuses for making...monstrous cakes.

So that's just what I did.

My original intent was to make some sort of booze filled cake to go along with the whole 21st birthday thing.  Seems logical, right?  I thought so.  But the birthday boy quickly shut that idea down with a request for an oreo cake.  Not wanting to disappoint, I immediately started gathering ideas and brainstorming for an oreo cake that I would deem worthy of a 21st birthday.  And being the logical person that I am, I quickly decided that the first step would be to make homemade oreos.  Obviously.

And so here we are.

I planned on posting both the cake (midnight chocolate cake with a whipped vanilla frosting) recipe and the oreo recipe all in one post.  But then I started it and realized I was overwhelmed.  Meaning that you would probably be more than overwhelmed.  Whatever that is.  So, I decided it would have to be a two part ordeal.  Luckily, you don't need a cake to make these delicious things worthwhile.

Dare I say they are waaaaaaaaaaay better than store bought oreos?

I dare.

homemade oreo cookies

Adapted from Flour Cookbook

Makes: 16-18 Sandwich Cookies   Prep Time: 15 minutes  Refrigeration Time: 3 hours 
Bake Time: 20-25 minutes  Total Time: 3 hours 40 minutes

{Printable Recipe}

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled slightly
1 egg
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

vanilla cream filling-
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 2/3 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon milk
pinch of salt

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the butter and sugar until well combined.  Whisk in vanilla and chocolate chips.  Add the egg and whisk until thoroughly incorporated.
  2. In another medium bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda until well mixed.  Using a wooden spoon, stir the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture.  The dough will have the consistency of Play-Doh.  Let the dough sit at room temperature for about 1 hour to firm up.
  3. Transfer the dough in a 15-inch square sheet of parchment or waxed paper.  Using your hands, shape the dough into a rough log about 10 inches long and 2 1/2 inches in diameter.  Place the log at the edge of the sheet of parchment paper, and roll the parchment around the log.  With the log fully encased in parchment, roll it into a smoother log, keeping it at 2 1/2 inches in diameter.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or until firm.  The log may settle and sink a bit in the fridge, so reroll it every 30 minutes or so.  (At this point the dough can be well wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 1 month.)
  4. Preheat the oven to 325° and butter or line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  
  5. Cut the dough log into 1/4 inch thick slices.  Place the slices 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the cookies are firm to the touch.  Check them frequently after 16-17 minutes by poking them in the middle.  Let cool on the baking sheet until barely warm or right at room temperature. 
  7. While the cookies are cooling, make the filling by beating the butter on low speed for 30 seconds in the bowl of a stand mixer (or with a hand mixer) fitted with the paddle attachment.  Add the vanilla and confectioners' sugar and beat until smooth.  Add milk and salt and again beat until smooth.
  8. Scoop about 1 tablespoon of the filling onto the bottom of one cookie.  Top with a second cookie, bottom-side down, then press the cookies together to spread the filling toward the edges.  Repeat until all of the cookies are filled.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Meal Plan Monday

Happy Monday!

This morning I pulled myself out of bed at 5 a.m. to finish making the homemade (buttery, flaky, warm, soft, heavenly) croissants that I started on Saturday night.

That means I've had approximately 18 cups of coffee before 8 a.m., which is probably too many.  But that also means that I'll probably have an incredibly productive day.  Or at least until I nose dive straight into a nap around 2 this afternoon.  But until then...productivity machine.

Oh, did I mention that I love nothing more than grabbing a cup of coffee, rolling out homemade croissants, and watching the sun come up?  Seriously.  How can I make that part of my daily routine?

Speaking of...does anyone have a bakery?  Can I come live there?

Moving forward.

Yesterday, I got to spend a good part of my afternoon enjoying this gorgeous New England fall weather at an apple orchard with some friends.  And it was lovely, despite the fact that it was an absolute madhouse and technically we didn't get to pick the apples off of the trees because of the unbelievably long lines...  Either way, I was able to pick up some apples, acorn squash, a sugar pumpkin, and some apple cider.  All of which drove me to find these recipes.

At this point, my devotion to fall recipes can't be stopped.  And I will take no shame in providing a bombardment of fall flavored recipes from this point forward.  After Thanksgiving I will do my best to pull in the reigns and switch to a different kind of winter fare...maybe laying off the squash and pumpkin for a little while.

But until then...


Can we all say "yum" together?  Yummm.  I haven't cooked with fennel since the night I attempted to slice my finger off with the mandolin slicer.  And that's a shame really because fennel is pretty darn good.  A little strange yes, but it makes for some killer flavor combinations.  Like this one.  To me the combination of fennel and thyme screams fall while lemon and olives are still holding on to summer.  Making it perfect for late September.
 Fennel and Thyme Roasted Cod with Lemon, Olives, and Black Forbidden Rice


Alright.  I hate to jump on the bandwagon but soup served in a pumpkin?  Freaking adorable.  If I had the lavish kitchen and dining room of my dreams I would be hosting dinner parties nightly and serving soup in some sort of round fall vegetable on a regular basis.  But...I don't have said lavish kitchen and dining room set up.  I guess I'll have to settle for making it for the select few who are in my apartment at the time.  Lucky them, right?
 Spicy Acorn Squash and Apple Soup
-from Muy Bueno


I recently received a comment on a reallllly old shrimp gumbo post.  It reminded me that 1) I needed to make gumbo again and 2) I needed to make real gumbo.  There are gumbo recipes galore out there but I went with this one because it's filled to the brim with seafood while most are sporting chicken and sausage (yummy yes, but not for me).
 Seafood Gumbo


Fall/Winter makes me forget about salads.  And I love salads.  This one is littered with all sorts of delicious things including chickpeas, quinoa, pine nuts and tomatoes.  And then topped with a garlicky balsamic roasted batch of tofu.  Yes, please.  However...I do think I'll make one change...drop the olive oil and balsamic in the salad and add...
High Protein Salad with Balsamic Roasted Tofu

...this dressing.  How could I pass up making "The Best French Vinaigrette You'll Ever Have"?  Plus, it just looks fun to make...there is a mortar and pestle involved for goodness sake.  By the way, do you read A Cup of Jo?  No?  Because you should.  She's fabulous.  Especially when she says things like this..."I like a masochistic salad with bitter greens and an assertive dressing. I like to know I'm eating salad, damn it, and that the dressing is my master."  Well said.
The Best French Vinaigrette You'll Ever Have


As I was searching around for recipes I had an overwhelming need for scallops.  I love scallops.  I love scallops a lot.  But I rarely make them at home.  Which is sad.  Especially when they could be prepared with a mustard miso sauce.  And then those scallops along with the mustard miso sauce and maybe some rice could be in my tummy.
Scallops with Mustard Miso Sauce

and a few more just because a fall breakfast is so cozy and delicious...  
and I might have been craving breakfast food.

 Roasted Squash Quiche with Gorgonzola and Sage

 Hot Buttered Apple Cider

Pumpkin Ginger Waffles

 Spiced Oatmeal Smoothie

 Honey-Scented Yogurt with Figs and Granola

 Sweet Potato Breakfast Biscuits

 Pumpkin Spice Bagels with Whipped Cinnamon Honey Butter

Fall Root Vegetable and Quinoa Hash with Poached Egg

P.S. - I'm working on a little blog makeover.  And I would like your help!
Is there anything you would like to see on here?
Do you have any suggestions?
Are there things that could make navigating around easier?
Do you have fabulous color palette ideas?
Leave a comment and let me know!  I would love to hear from you on this!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Stuffed Butternut Squash

Alright.  Seriously.

This squash.

Is delicious.

So delicious in fact that I've spent this entire morning getting this post to you instead of spending the morning engulfed in school work.  Now, I make it sound like this was a hard choice to make.  But obviously that's not the case.  I would rather be doing this any day.  But my to-do list for next week might make an argument that this was a poor use of a quiet morning in the apartment.  But rumor has it my sanity can make one heck of a counter.

I thought about waiting to share this recipe until the weather got a little colder.  But I can't wait.  Keeping such things from you would not be fair.

It combines way too many things that I love.  Roasted vegetables.  Squash.  Whole grains. And cheeeeese.  And by the way...for all of you vegetarians out there...the mushrooms in this somehow transform themselves into tasting like bacon.  Yes.  You read correctly.  Bacon.

As the guys started digging in, they raised their heads with bulging eyes and a look of bewilderment.  "Did you put bacon in this?"  

And then I took a bite.  They were right.  These mushrooms = Bacon.

And of course if you aren't a vegetarian you could put real bacon in this.  Or ground turkey.  Or chicken.  Or kangaroo.  All of the above would be delicious, I'm sure of it.

Vegetarian or not I encourage you to add anything and everything that you think would be good in this.  Don't have the fancy harvest grain blend I used?  Go for rice, quinoa, couscous, farro, orzo... Want to throw in some different vegetables?  Do it.  Feeling goat cheese instead of Parmesan?  Make it happen.  But promise you'll come back and tell me about the changes.

 roasted butternut squash...  
stuffed with delicious things.

Adapted from Naturally Ella

Makes: 4 servings  Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 75 minutes  Total Time: 1 hour 35 minutes

{Printable Recipe}

1 large butternut squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium shallots, minced
4 ounces mushrooms,  I used a mix of cremini, oyster, and shiitake
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup grain, I used Trader Joe's Harvest Grain Blend including couscous, orzo, baby garbanzo beans, and red quinoa (which I received from my Foodie Pen Pal last month!)
1 cup water
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
pinch of salt
other seasonings to taste: I used South African Smoke seasoning blend from Trader Joe's

  1. Preheat oven to 400°.  Slice squash in half and scoop out the seeds.  But don't throw them out!  I highly encourage doing {this} instead!  Place each half cut side down in a 9x13 pan and pour 1/2 inch of water in the bottom.  Place pan in the oven and bake until tender, about 45-60 minutes.  Once done, remove from oven and set aside.
  2. While the squash is cooking, rinse the grain mix thoroughly and place in a pot with 1 cup of water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and let cook until the water is absorbed, about 12-15 minutes.  In a large skillet heat olive oil and add the garlic, mushrooms and shallots.  Saute until tender, about 8 minutes.
  3. Scoop out the butternut squash, leaving 1/4 - 1/2 inch on the sides and bottom.  Drain water from the pan and return the squash to the pan cut side up.
  4. Mash the squash and stir in the cheese.  Once quinoa, and the shallot/mushroom mixture is done add it to the squash.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Stir and taste for needed seasonings.
  5. Scoop filling evenly into the butternut squash halves.  Sprinkle the top with cheese and return to the oven.  Let bake for 10-15 minutes or until cheese has melted and the tops begin to brown.  Remove from oven, cut in half, and serve.
  6. Enjoy!

Coming soon - A colossal Oreo Cake constructed with homemade oreos for Brendan's 21st birthday!
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