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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use your noodle.

IMG_1856.JPGPeanut noodles are a crowd pleasing, easy meal to have up your sleeve.  Plus, they look so pretty and impressive.  You can really make this with any noodles you fancy: udon, soba, julienned/spiralized carrot, cucumber or zucchini, even spaghetti.  I made this with bucatini I found in bulk at Rainbow Grocery and it was great!  Feel free to adjust as needed- sub almond butter, add tofu to make it more substantial, add crushed peanuts, lime, thinly sliced jalapeños, cabbage etc.  Make it your own!

peanut noodz (loosely based on this recipe)

INGREDIENTS:

1/4 cup creamy PB

1/4 cup tamari

1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar

1 tablespoon agave nectar or maple syrup

2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1/2 inch or bigger chunk of ginger, finely chopped

1/4 cup sesame oil (can sub water or use 2T mirin +2T water for oil free)

 

8 oz noodles, I used bucatini

5 celery stalks, thinly sliced diagonally

4 radishes, thinly sliced

1 avocado, sliced

2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

1/2 cup cilantro leaves

4 green onions, sliced on the diagonal

2 teaspoons korean chili flakes (or sliced fresh chiles, sriracha, other spicy thing)

METHOD:

Start a pot of water boiling for your noodles.

Meanwhile, add the PB, tamari, vinegar, agave, garlic, and ginger to a food processor.  Blend till smooth, then with machine running, drizzle in the oil to emulsify it.

Boil your noodles according to package directions; drain and rinse in cold water.  Toss sauce with noodles and then add in all your other ingredients.

Done!  This recipe holds up well in the fridge for a lunch the next day too, or make a double batch of sauce and keep the extra in the fridge for a quick dressing, dip, or drizzle.

 

 

 

lentil bolognese

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This lentil bolognese turned out so flavorful!  I had some lentils lounging in the fridge that needed to be used, so as usual, I planned my meal around them.  I always like to cook a legume on the weekend to have in the fridge to build meals easily- lentils go so well in grain salads, green salads, soups and more.  They are perfect little gems: gorgeous, easy to digest and packed with protein and iron.  Plus they have a nice hearty texture and can hold their own in this sauce.  Crimini mushrooms and tamari add a little umami, and plenty of aromatics make everything pop.  YUMMM let’s get to it.

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lentil bolognese (serves 4)

INGREDIENTS:

olive oil for sautéing

1/4 cup minced shallot or onion

1/4 cup minced carrot

1/4 cup minced celery

1/2 cup chopped mushrooms

4 cloves chopped garlic

2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning OR 1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon chili flakes

3 cups tomatoes- you can use chopped fresh or canned

1 tablespoon tamari

1.5 cups cooked lentils- I used French green; you can use any EXCEPT red lentils which will turn to mush

1/4 cup chopped basil or parsley + more for garnishing

METHOD:

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan or Dutch oven.  Add in the shallot, celery, carrot, and mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened- about 7 minutes.  Add in the garlic, dried herbs, and chili flakes and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute.  Add in tomatoes and tamari, stir, and simmer 20 minutes or until sauce has reduced and thickened.  At this point I pureed half of it before returning it to the pot; my kids prefer a smoother sauce.  You can do that too or leave as is; up to you!  Add in the lentils and basil and let cook minute or two to heat through.  Toss with pasta or zoodles or spaghetti squash, plate, and sprinkle with more chopped herbs and a generous sprinkle of my crumbly vegan parm .  Yum!  Keeps well in the fridge too.  Hope you guys enjoy it as much as we did!  If you make it, I’d love to see!  Tag me on instagram @mamaeatsplants .  Have a lovely weekend friends! xx A.

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squash your dinner plans.

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Tonight I checked the fridge and saw that one of my cilantro bunches was on its last legs. So I decided to make a dinner around it to use it all up, so it wouldn’t go to waste.  I decided on a cilantro-pumpkin seed pesto I used to make years ago with salmon.  Original recipe here .  Immediately I thought of roasting squash to complement it- the sweetness contrasts the herby brightness of the pesto.  So I made it, threw some chickpeas in the oven at the same time as the squash, and had a mostly hands off, easy dinner perfect for fall.  Here are the recipes:

Roasted squash with cilantro pesto and crispy chickpeas (serves 4)

INGREDIENTS:

2 small acorn squash

1 delicata squash

2 small sweet potatoes

oil for roasting if desired

——

3 cups or so chickpeas (I’d guess 2 cans worth if you’re using canned)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

——-

1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped, both leaves and stems

1/4 cup olive oil

1 lime, juiced

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 clove garlic, peeled

optional: avocado and sliced chile to serve

Preheat the oven to 425.  Slice up your squash into wedges about 1/2 inch thick and toss with oil if using, salt, and pepper.  Place on a baking sheet and pop in the oven.  Place chickpeas on a clean dish towel and pat dry.  Dump them onto a separate baking sheet and toss with oil, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper.  Pop those into the oven as well.  Bake for about 25 minutes or until crispy, then pull the chickpeas out of the oven (keep the squash in).  Meanwhile, pull out your food processor and put in: cilantro, garlic, lime juice, salt, pepper, olive oil, pumpkin seeds, and coriander seeds.  Pulse until it looks like pesto texture.  Taste and adjust for seasoning as necessary.  By this time your squash should be done- tender and browned.

Plate the squash first, then chickpeas, then drizzle the pesto on top.  Garnish with avocado and chiles.  Coconut yogurt would make a nice addition here too!  Enjoy xx

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.

Quality food on the cheap: part I

A statement that I hear quite often is, “I wish I could eat healthier.  But it’s just too expensive/I don’t have time to cook.”  Eating healthy doesn’t have to be expensive, and cooking doesn’t require Master Chef skills and lengthy prep time.  This is especially true if you are blessed to live somewhere with a temperate climate where fresh fruits and veg are abundant.  (If you live in the tropics I’m extremely jealous.  *le sigh*)  All it takes is getting a little smarter and investing more time in budgeting and planning.

I know, I know, the word “budget” tends to elicit groans and headaches.  When I first started, I felt that way too.  But it’s not hard or time-consuming, especially after you’ve done it a few times.  I take about half an hour max on a Saturday and bust out my whole meal plan, grocery list, and budget for the week.

The guidelines (read: customize to your lifestyle/needs) below are really just a brief outline of simple tips that help me.  In the next post I’ll give an example of a week of planning and meals for my family of 2 adults+2 kids.

1.  Set aside a certain day or time every week that you can sit down and plan for the week.  This is key to actually following through.

2.  Figure out what places you can get quality produce on the cheap.  In my area, that’s my farmer’s market, Costco, Trader Joe’s, and local supermarket/coop.  Farmers markets offer the absolute lowest prices on quality organic produce 90% of the time.  You can often get deals from the farmer if you ask.  If you go about 30 mins before the market ends, there are often huge mark-downs from farmers trying to sell what they have left.

3.  Know your prices.  I’m not advocating keeping a binder with spreadsheets of price comparisons like the people on Extreme Couponing, but just have a general idea in your head of things that are ALWAYS cheaper at a specific store.  Ex: I always buy bananas at Trader Joes (19 cents each for conventional, 29 cents each for organic) and I always buy dates at Costco (8 dollars for 2 pounds).

4.  Look at the ads.  When I was first starting out I always looked at the grocery store ads before starting my meal planning.  Most places have online ads and by looking at them you can begin to shape what you are going to eat that week by whats on sale (which is also usually whats in season-a bonus because its healthier/fresher)  I keep a little notebook and jot down whats on sale and for what price.

5.  Find or think up recipes, and keep in mind whats on sale when you decide on which to use.  I write down a hard plan for dinner, and am looser with lunch and breakfast plans since I know I’ll usually have leftovers and will always have fruit and veg for a smoothie or juice.  Keep in mind the time window you’ll have to get dinner on the table and plan accordingly.  Ex: Tuesdays and Thursdays I get home late and just want to get something on the damn table and not wash a bazillion dishes.  I prep food the day before or in the morning so there’s minimal cleaning and prep.  A few fave food blogs: celineeatsavocados , puremamas , ohsheglows , minimalistbaker ,  onehungrymami .

6. Make your list.  Write down the ingredients that you’ll need for your recipes/plans and allow for some snacks.  Approximate how much money each item will cost, and add it up at the end to get a loose idea of how much you will be spending.

7.  Get shopping!  Usual days for me are Sundays and Wednesdays, whatever you prefer is great.  Also:  clean your fridge out before you go!  Easier to put away stuff when you get home and you might find something on your list that you forgot you had. (why hello carrots stuffed in the back drawer and forgotten)  Things that are easily seen will get used instead of rotting.

8.  Post your meal plan on the fridge for easy reference during the week.

9.  Whenever possible, grow your own food or find it!  Gardening cuts WAY down on my grocery expenses.  I grow lettuce, kale, radishes, carrots, herbs, and onions/garlic in the winter along with my orange and tangerine tree.  In the summer, I grow tomatoes, zucchini, green beans, cucumbers and basil plus my plum and cherry tree.  All the things I grow are super easy and I grow most of them in pots (ie you don’t need a backyard to grow food!)  I also live near a bike path with fruit trees planted along it.  Check out fallingfruit.org to look in your area for public fruit trees that you can pick.

Hope this helps!  On Thursday I will post part 2 for an example meal plan + grocery list and what it cost for a week of food.  Please leave a comment if you have any questions/suggestions etc.

Much love, A.