at the market: winter squash + 5 ways to use it

IMG_1993Winter squash is abundant this time of year- so many colors, textures and flavors to choose from.  I always buy a bunch and keep them on the table as a sort of “fruit bowl” type centerpiece because they are so pretty.  My favorites are kabocha, red kuri, delicata, and butternut.  These all have dense, sweet flesh that get caramelized when roasted and blends up creamy for soups.  I also love spaghetti squash as whole food, gluten free noodle replacer- just cut in half, scoop out the seeds, and steam.  Delicata is great because it has tender thin skin (no need to peel)- cut in half, scoop out the seeds, cut into half moons, and roast.  I especially love roasting it with brussels, beets or other veg for a colorful side.  Kabocha has edible skin, too- I like to cut into wedges and steam in a kombu-lined pot with a few tablespoons of mirin, splash of water, and some tamari and green onions to finish- a technique I learned from this post.

When choosing squash, look for ones that have bright and vibrant skins and that feel heavy for their size.  I like to choose smaller ones because I find them less likely to be stringy.  If you do end up getting a stringy squash, just blend it up into a soup or puree it for a side/ add to breads, pie, etc!  Store squash in a cool, dry place- thinner skinned varieties like delicata only last a few weeks, but other squashes can last a month or more in a cool area like the garage.

Here’s my favorite squash soup recipe, plus 4 other ways to use up those gorgeous gourds.

squash soup

INGREDIENTS:

1 tablespoon of coconut oil (or use broth/water for oil free)

1 large yellow onion, chopped

1 large sweet apple, chopped

1 large squash or pumpkin, any type, peeled and cubed, seeds reserved ~5-6 cups

2 teaspoons fresh thyme or sage, minced

1 can coconut milk

2-3 cups of vegetable broth (depending on how large your squash is and how thick/thin you prefer your soup)

salt + pepper, to taste

any toppings you like, here i used sage leaves crisped up in a hot pan with a touch of olive oil + toasted pecans.

METHOD:

Preheat the oven to 400.  Toss the squash seeds with a little oil, salt and pepper and place in the preheated oven and bake until crispy, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large dutch oven or soup pot.  Add in the onion and apple and saute until onion is translucent, about 5-7 minutes.  Add in the thyme and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add in the squash and stir to coat.  Add in coconut milk and broth.  Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and let it simmer, uncovered, until the squash is completely tender, about 20 minutes.  Use an immersion blender to puree or carefully transfer to a blender to puree.  Taste and add salt and pepper to your liking.

To serve: Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with the roasted seeds, and any other toppings- a scoop of quinoa, some avocado, breadcrumbs, dollop of cashew cream, toasted pecans, fried sage leaves, anything you desire.

+4 other favorite squash recipes

creamy kabocha pasta : I omit the cheese and meat in this recipe, subbing crispy sautéed mushrooms (sear in a pan with thyme and shallot, only stirring once or twice so they get crispy)

roast squash and bean tart : impressive looking and delicious vegan main, GF, perfect for thanksgiving or holiday gatherings.

chili and sesame roasted squash : so so good, easy, and a totally different taste profile than the usual recipes.

butternut lasagna with sage-tofu ricotta : another delicious and beautiful vegan main, just add a green salad and you’re set!

+ 1 bonus recipe: pumpkin cheesecake // I’ve been wanting to try this baby forever, it looks so good and would be perfect to bring to a dinner or holiday party.

I hope you enjoy these recipes and that it inspires you to work more squash into the meal rotation this week.  Have a lovely weekend! xx

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at the market now: beets + 5 ways to use them

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I just adore beets.  Those gorgeous colors, that deep earthy sweetness, and the fact that they come with a free bunch of greens attached!!!!  YES please.  In all honesty, I really used to be disgusted by them, though.  I thought they tasted like dirt.  Thankfully my taste buds aren’t petulant babies anymore.  Beets are abundant at our local farmer’s market throughout fall, winter, and spring.  After a long hot summer, I’m dying to welcome  them back.

I usually find three varieties at our market- red (Bull’s Blood, Detroit Wonder, Cylindrica), pink with white rings inside (Chioggia, Candy Stripe), and yellow or golden.  They all taste a little different.  The golden and chioggia types taste milder and sweeter.  They are delicious raw, sliced paper thin on a mandolin (chioggia are especially gorgeous this way, as you can see all the vibrant stripes).

Beets can be roasted, pickled, steamed, eaten in salad, added to hummus, and so much more.  Cut into cubes and roast with squash, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, rosemary and garlic for an easy side.  Slice them thinly on a mandolin, and bake with olive oil and sea salt for crispy chips.

An easy way to prep the whole bunch at once: cut off stems and tail, wrap tightly in aluminum foil.  Bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes to an hour until soft.  Let them cool a bit and then open up the foil and rub it against the skin-it will slip right off.  Compost the skins and rinse off and reuse or recycle the foil.

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Treat beet greens like any other hardy green (kale, chard, etc) and saute.

At the market, choose beets that feel firm with fresh and green leaves.  The best, freshest beets will have a sort of sheen to the skin.  When you get home, wash them and cut the greens off, or they will continue to draw moisture and flavor out.  I store the roots loose in my crisper drawer.  Cut the leaves off of the stems.  Compost the stalks and store the leaves as you would any leafy green- I either wrap loosely in a slightly damp kitchen towel, or in my storage bags from The Swag (they work really well).

All that said, let’s get cooking.  Here are a few recipes that we especially enjoy using beets as the star.

citrus and beet winter salad (serves 4 as a side)

INGREDIENTS:

2 large beets, steamed or roasted, peeled and sliced into wedges (see roasting instructions above if interested)

1 small chioggia or yellow beet, peeled and thinly sliced on a mandolin

2 oranges, skin and pith removed, sliced 1/4 inch thick crosswise, seeds removed

1 large avocado, pitted and sliced

1/4 cup of roasted pistachios (sub any other toasted nut or seed)- roughly chopped

1/3 cup of pomegranate arils

1 small shallot, finely chopped ~ 2 tablespoons

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme OR 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped very finely

1/4 teaspoon each kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper

a handful of leafy bitter/spicy greens, like arugula, radicchio, or endive

flaky sea salt for finishing

opional: Urfa Biber chili flakes (I had them around, they are black flakes with a mild heat and deep flavor + they look beautiful on food) black sesame seeds would do the trick too to pop the colors.

METHOD:

Place shallot and ACV in a small mixing bowl.  Let sit 2 minutes, then whisk in the oil, sweetener, herbs, salt and pepper.  Taste and adjust as necessary.

Spread the greens out over a large plate or serving platter.  Arrange the roasted beets, oranges, avocado on top.  Tuck in the raw sliced beets around the sides and in empty spaces. Sprinkle on the pomegranate arils and drizzle dressing over the salad evenly.  Sprinkle the nuts and a few pinches of flaky salt over and serve immediately.

We like to serve as a side with a nice creamy soup, like butternut or carrot + some crusty bread + the beet greens (sauteed with olive oil, shallot, lemon, and nutmeg).

+4 more recipes that can’t be beet 

crushed and crispy beets with yogurt : this is a delicious recipe.  I skip the second step of pan frying to make it easier.  Coco yogurt with a few teaspoons of lemon and pinch of salt mixed in is an easy swap for the labneh.

french “peasant” beets : I’ve made this recipe quite a few times, subbing miyoko’s vegan butter (TJ’s has the lowest price on this or you can make your own!  this is miyoko’s recipe and it’s really easy + no plastic) and a cashew cheese for the goat cheese called for.  A great dinner with a green salad and some crusty bread.

fudgy chocolate beet cake with avo frosting : GF/V, rich, dense, packed with healthy plant foods, and tastes like perfect cake.  I made these in cupcake form once to send with my son to a SAD eater’s kid’s birthday party, where I knew they’d be serving chocolate cupcakes.  They looked exactly the same and my son didn’t eat crappy corn syrup and hydrogenated oil laced cupcakes.  WIN!

ginger+star anise quick pickled beets : so easy + silky, sophisticated flavors.  A perfect dinner party starter along with some roasted almonds and some crackers and nut cheese.

Now go buy some beets and eat them all the ways 🙂  Tag me on Instagram @mamaeatsplants so I can see all your beet-y creations!

xx love to you

Quality food on the cheap: part II

So last time I laid out some guidelines for buying food on a budget.  Now its time to break down in detail the method I shared in the last post.  This example is for the week of 12/2 – 12/8 (Mon-Sun)

First, I pull up the ads for this week on my computer.  I check a handful of local stores to see if any sales are worth getting excited about.  This week, there wasn’t.  Then I figure out how many meals I need to prepare that week. This week its 7 breakfasts, 6 lunches, and 6 dinners.  I don’t plan lunches as I always have plenty of leftovers from dinner/ingredients to whip up something quick.  For breakfasts I roughly approximate what I will eat and how much fruit I will need (fruit = breakfast of choice.  I am a smoothie QUEEN)

Next I look in my fridge/pantry and see what is languishing around needing to be used asap.  This week I had russet potatoes, spinach, a sweet potato, lettuce, sprouted tofu and sugar snap peas.  I had seen @veggiephile (on instagram) make stuffed sweet potatoes with kale and cannellini beans that looked fantastic; therefore stuffed sweet potatoes with spinach+white beans and a salad is one dinner.  The tofu was begging to be stir fried with the snap peas; buy a few more veggies + rice.  2/6 dinners complete!  For the rest, I flipped through some cookbooks (Cooks Illustrated is my fave!  NOT vegan but very adaptable and recipes always come out amazing) and online to gather inspiration.  This is what I came up with:

MON 

BREAKFAST: OJ smoothie (fresh oj and whatever frozen fruit from the freezer)

DINNER: Stuffed sweet potatoes (celery, onions, dried cherries, pecans, spinach) + large salad

TUES

BREAKFAST:  Tangerine + Raspberry smoothie

DINNER:  visiting family

WEDNS

BREAKFAST:  Green juice (apple + carrot + spinach + lemon)

DINNER: Tofu stir fry (snap peas, mushrooms, carrots, broccoli, onion, sprouted tofu, tangerine sauce) + rice

THURS

BREAKFAST:  OJ smoothie

DINNER: Veggie chili + salad

FRI

BREAKFAST:  pomegrate juice + chia pudding

DINNER:  oven fries with chimichurri + large salad

SAT

BREAKFAST: grapefruit juice + oatmeal w berries and flax

DINNER:  polenta with rosemary mushrooms + salad

SUN

BREAKFAST: miso soup + rice

DINNER: Pasta bolognese (obviously I omit dairy from this recipe) + salad

Depending on how I feel that day, I definitely switch up my breakfasts, but I like to roughly figure out how much food to get.  I almost always stick dinner plans, which makes it so much easier to plan and prep ahead.  Although to be honest sometimes there’s a “I’m so sick of cooking im going to scream if I have to step foot in the kitchen again” kind of night.  Being a mom can burn you out sometimes!  Anyways…Sunday and Thursday dinners get made ahead in the morning or even the day before.  I love veggie chili as it is so warm, filling and easy to make ahead.  Plus it lasts for days in the fridge, scoop out some and reheat at any time.

Then I compile my list, first writing down ingredients I need for my recipes and then giving my fridge and pantry a once over to see if there is anything else I need to stock back up on.  At this point you may or may not have a baby who enjoys pulling things out of the fridge and causing general mayhem at your feet.

caught in the act

Mmmm hmmm.  Caught red-handed.

Here’s the list for this week, and the cost of everything on it.  Everything is organic except for a few items which are denoted by a *.  Prices are in the ( ).

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FARMERS MARKET (39)

(5) crimini mushrooms x 1 lb

(6) oranges x 10 lbs

(2) purple broccoli x 1 large head

(2) sweet potatoes x 2

(1) zucchini x 4

(1) green bell peppers x 3 small

(.50) parsley x 1 head

(.50) cilantro x 1 head

(.50) green onions x 1 bunch

(2) carrots x 5 large

(4.50) apples x 6

(2) grapes x 2 lbs

(3) pomegranates x 3

(2) cucumbers x 4 small

(3) hachiya persimmons x 4 (ooey gooey and great baby food)

(6) lettuce x 3 large heads

COSTCO (29.50)

(3.50) *onions x 5 lbs

(14) quinoa, kale, almond veggie patties x 1 large box

(5) edamame x 1 huge box (for snacks)

(7) frozen peaches/mango/strawberry blend

(4) *garlic x 1 big bag

TRADER JOES (9.68)

(2) bananas x 1 large hand

(3) *coconut milk x 3 cans

(1.69) *red lentils

(2.99) *Candy Cane Joes O’s x 1 box… uhh, obviously NOT healthy but they are only here once a year and they’re soooo good.  YOLO!

yum

nom nom nom…I need to make my own!  I saw a few recipes floating around….

GRAND TOTAL: 82.18

This feeds my family of 2 adults, a five-year old, and a one year old for a week.  Obviously some ingredients were already in my pantry, but a lot of things I got this week will stretch into other weeks too (frozen fruit, big bags of onion and garlic, lentils, and coco milk) so it evens out.  Buying in bulk helps to cut down my costs a lot.

Love, A.