How to Cook Acorn Squash

Posted on

In case you did not know this, I did not grow up in the United States. Where I grew up, we did not have acorn squash. We had pumpkins and gourds, to be sure, but nothing like the varieties I see around me here in Tennessee.

Baked acorn squash halves

Acorn squash baked by my own two hands

For the longest time, I thought one could not eat acorn squash. Somebody even told me they were only for decoration and I took their word for it. Boy, was I mistaken. Continue reading »

After spending a weekend with a friend who had all kinds of winter squash around her house for cooking purposes, I decided to investigate the matter. Was acorn squash really edible? Most answers these days are only a Google search away, of course. Not only is it edible, it contains a powerhouse of nutrients like vitamin C, which, this time of the year, is very much needed to keep infections at bay.

Acorn Squash With Seeds Acorn Squash Cleaned Out

Armed with my newfound knowledge, I bought my first couple of acorn squash and baked them. Cutting them was a bit tough, but in the end it was so worth it.

Trying on new foods, textures, and tastes takes courage, folks. If you already consume acorn squash, I challenge you to pick a new vegetable today. Buy it, wash it, research it, and prepare it. Consume it with pride. You are pushing the boundaries of your taste buds. Plus, you are setting a good example for your children.

 

Ingredients

2 medium acorn squash or 3 small ones

1 tsp butter per half

1/2 Tbsp honey per half

 

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with aluminium foil.

Wash acorn squash to remove dirt. Cut in two. Careful with that knife! That’s the toughest part of the process, I promise.

Take seeds and stringy parts out, using a grapefruit spoon. Discard. I have roasted seeds before, but acorn squash seeds are not as good as the ones from sugar pumpkins. Besides, you don’t get as many from acorn squash.

Place squash halves face down on your baking sheet.

Baking Acorn Squash

If the squash is small, it does not matter which way you cut it.

Bake for 45 minutes or until a fork easily penetrates the squash’s outer skin.

Baked acorn squash

Once they are baked, I turn them over to marvel at their beauty. Behold, baked acorn squash!

Enjoy with butter and honey. Sorry, I cannot get myself to see pumpkins and squashes as something savory. I grew up eating pumpkin with sugar and butter. The thought of putting salt and pepper on an acorn squash or stuffing it with savory rice or making pumpkin soup gives me shivers.

Maybe that should be my challenge to myself for the fall of 2018. Until then, enjoy your acorn squash sweet!


Gluten Free Apple Crisp

Posted on

September and October are apple months where we live. That’s when we can applesauce and make apple crisp almost every day. November can be apple crisp month too. Why not?

Gluten free apple crisp to warm you on a cool fall morning

If you ask me, any month is apple crisp month. I love, love, love apple crisp and any kind of fruit crisp, really. And since becoming gluten free, I have changed my baking recipes and the result is just as tasty if not even better.

Gluten free apple crisp with vegan cream

Option: serve it with vegan cream

This recipe I will share with you is inspired by the Minimalist Baker apple crisp, but I had to modify it because I like a different apple-to-topping ratio than what their recipe was. Also, I like a healthier take on it, so I put less sugar in mine. Continue reading »

 

Apple Layer

4 apples, cored and diced into bite sizes

1/4 c sugar in the raw or any other unrefined sugar

1 Tbsp cornstarch

1/2 tsp cinnamon

pinch of salt

small dash of lemon juice (optional)

IKEA apple corer/slicer

I love my IKEA apple corer/slicer

 

Topping

1/4 cup sugar in the raw or any other unrefined sugar like Muscovado

1 cup gluten free flour (I like King Arthur or Bob’s Mill)

2 cups rolled oats*

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup avocado oil

1/4 cup water

pinch salt

 

Instructions

Preheat oven to 375 F and spray a 9×13 casserole dish with oil. Mix apples well with the rest of the ingredients in that list. Place in a uniform layer at the bottom of the casserole dish.

Mix dry Topping ingredients in a clean, dry bowl. Add wet ingredients and mix well until you do not see any more flour and the oats look wet. Layer over the apples in the dish. Bake for 1 hour. My oven is slow, especially if I bake using the convection feature. Sometimes I have to bake it for an extra 10 minutes, so use your judgment.

*Gluten sensitivity comes in many levels. Regular oats do not bother me, for instance, so I do not have to buy gluten free oats. If you know you must have gluten free oats, by all means use them instead of regular oats.


Gluten Free, Vegan Enchiladas

Posted on

Over the summer months, I found out what has been causing my abdominal pain for the past 24 years: gluten. As a result, I am now adapting all my recipes to be gluten free. Most of them are easy to switch. There are so many gluten free substitutes out there.

However, there is a learning curve. I have never been afraid of a little learning, so it’s all good. So far, I have been pleasantly surprised to hear from my husband and children that they like gluten free pancakes better than regular ones. The same goes for store-bought gluten free cookies and a gluten free zucchini cake I made a couple of weeks ago.

Here’s how I have adapted my enchilada recipe to be gluten free and vegan. By the way, if you do not like vegan cheese, you can always use the genuine article.

Gluten free, vegan enchiladas

Gluten free, vegan enchiladas

 

Ingredients

One pack of Bfree tortilla wraps (or use whatever brand you like)

1 1/2 c Bob’s Mill TVP

1 jar of your favorite Marinara sauce Continue reading »

1/2 c – 3/4 c Daiya cheddar style shreds or block cheese, which you will have to shred yourself

3 Tbsp McKay’s chicken style seasoning

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp chili powder

1 Tbsp. onion powder

1/2 Tbsp. garlic powder

salt to taste

 

Directions

In a bowl, pour 3 cups of hot water over TVP and add 2 Tbsp of the chicken style seasoning. Let rehydrate for at least 10 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 F. Spray a 9 x 11 casserole dish with oil spray. Pour a thin layer of Marinara sauce at the bottom of the dish.

When the TVP has softened, strain it in a colander over the sink and transfer to a large pan. Add the oil, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, the last Tbsp of McKay’s chicken style seasoning, about 2 Tbsp of Marinara sauce, and salt to taste. Stir fry until the contents are well mixed and the TVP has darkened in color, about 7 minutes.

While the TVP is cooking, shred your cheese if you are not using shreds.

Turn off the heat under the TVP and start assembling the enchiladas. I use about 1/4 c of TVP per tortilla. If your wrap pack has more than six tortillas, you may want to put less TVP per enchilada, or simply double the TVP recipe for two packs of wraps.

Pour the rest of the Marinara sauce over the enchiladas. Cover with cheese.

Bake at 350 F for 25 minutes or until the cheese has melted. Let sit for 5 minutes before enjoying. The enchiladas are hotter on the inside.


Green and Pink Smoothies

Posted on

Lately, I have had a lot of fun making smoothies for us. That blender gets washed every day, I tell you. That’s because it gets used every day. It is such an easy thing to do and yet it took me a bit to get on the bandwagon of this food trend. You don’t need a cookbook either.

Raspberry and cocoa parfait

Raspberry and cocoa parfait (or smoothie)

A couple of years ago, I read a cookbook about kale. All the recipes included kale in some form. It overwhelmed me. I tried a few kale smoothies and other kale recipes, but I did not get inspired.

Well, something happened this year. Not sure what exactly, but one morning I just felt the courage to get the blender out and here’s what I put in it: 1 cup of rice milk, a cup of spinach, and one banana. Continue reading »

I could drink the resulting smoothie, but my children asked for it to be sweeter. Enter the second banana.

Kale Smoothie

Two bananas, some spinach, fiber, and milk

So with 1 cup of rice milk, 1 cup of fresh spinach leaves and 2 bananas I make enough smoothies for the three of us for lunch. There are days when I don’t feel like eating a salad, but I know I need my greens. By the way, I may have poured more than one cup of milk. If it gets too thick for your blender, just put more milk. You cannot hurt it.

Green smoothies (kale, rice milk, bananas)

Green smoothies (kale, rice milk, bananas)

Of course, you can do other combinations. For instance, I put one teaspoon of fiber (husks) in there one day. You could put flax seed etc. This recipe is just an example of how easy it is to drink your spinach (or kale) and not gag. We need our greens, friends!

Now, for the pink smoothies. I found a great recipe on Forks over Knives, which I modified slightly for my own taste. The taste is great and it is almost like a parfait. If you let it sit overnight in your fridge, it will thicken and have the texture of a parfait. Otherwise it will be a smoothie and you can just drink it. One thing is sure though: both are delicious.

Show these recipes to your children and record this as “Culinary Arts” or “Science” in your school records. “Cooking Lab” is another label, of course. In Tennessee, homeschooling legal requirements are not that stringent but I keep records of things we do for my own benefit.


Happy Thanksgiving 2016!

Posted on

This year, we stayed home and played host and hostess to a small group made up of family and friends. There were ten of us around the table, including the four of us. Viewed differently, there were six adults and four children.

Thanksgiving plate

Thanksgiving yummy food

I made Quorn vegetarian turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, green beans, fresh salad with greens, tomatoes and petite sweet peppers, cashew gravy, five-minute cranberry relish, corn and dinner rolls (bought frozen). For dessert, I made pumpkin pie, white cake with cream cheese frosting and crustless cranberry pecan pie. We drank apple cider.

Continue reading »

If you decide to try the cranberry relish from the link above, which is from Forks Over Knives, you should not add the orange zest from both oranges. Maybe just the zest from one orange. I found it too bitter and then I had to add more dates to take away the bitterness and the cranberries got overpowered by the date taste and texture. Don’t say I did not tell you.

My mother-in-law brought turkey and dressing made with animal fat for those around the table who were not of the vegetarian persuasion. Food is an emotional issue for most people and I have no desire to change anybody’s lifestyle. I live my life and hopefully everybody else can let me be just as I let them be.

At Thanksgiving, you will not persuade anybody to change their diet, religion or politics anyway. So we chose hospitality and kindness, as we always do, and we didn’t make a big deal out of our differences. We have told the children not to say anything bad about other people’s food choices. We respect everybody’s freedom to pursue life, liberty and happiness in their way.

My children love animals so much, they have never asked to taste meat, in case you wonder. In fact, as we are now going through the Little House in the Prairie series, they are getting the picture that living in the big woods or on the prairie included eating a lot of wild animals. They don’t like it. They are thankful we don’t have to live off of animals shot by somebody.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it is about the Pilgrims, good food, and gathering my husband and children around the table. I love feeding them.

This year, we turned on the TV for the first time so they could watch Macy’s Thanksgiving parade in New York City and then a bit from the dog show. It’s an American thing and they need to know some of these symbols of Americana. I liked the song about kindness – I forget which show it is from, but my son picked up on it and told me later on about it. I know they learned a lot as they watched the parade.


Dutch Oven Bread

Posted on

Mothers work too hard. We do. It’s no wonder we must find shortcuts in the kitchen. Recently, I found a shortcut for making my own bread and thought I would share it with you. You may know about this already. But just in case you don’t, here it is: dutch oven bread. No kneading, no kidding.

dutch oven bread

Dutch oven bread, no kneading – so easy, a five-year-old could do it

If you think you don’t have energy to make your own bread, think again. This bread is so easy, you could have your five-year-old make it. I followed the New York Times no-knead bread recipe and changed it a bit. Feel free to adapt it to your own likes and dislikes.  Continue reading »

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like sweet bread. I grew up in Eastern Europe, where bread is savory and crusty and chewy and delicious and not spongy and sweet. When I came to the US, bread is what I missed the most.

Bread machines come in handy and I do have one, which I use about once a month or so. But isn’t it nice you could make bread without a machine?

As you can tell, I am pretty excited about this bread I can make in the iron cast dutch oven with four ingredients and no kneading.

 

Ingredients

3 cups flour (all-purpose or bread flour)

1 t salt (or more, if you like)

1 t yeast (dry, active)

1 2/3 c warm water

 

Preparation

Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl, or let your five-year-old do it. Then, pour the water in and mix it by hand (it will be messy and sticky, but fun) or use a wooden spoon. Don’t mix too much, just until you get a soft dough which pulls from the sides of the bowl. If it’s too dry, add a bit more water.

Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit overnight (12-18 hours is fine) at room temperature. Flexibility, friends! Isn’t that nice in a recipe?

When ready to go to the next step… on a floured surface, let the dough be coated with flour or wheat bran. Your hands should be floured as you handle it. Fold it over on itself once or twice. Shape it into a round and put it on parchment/wax paper. Let it sit for another 30 minutes, while you pre-heat the oven to 450F.

Put your dutch oven in the oven to heat, too. Be careful when you handle it, as everything will be hot: the lid, the oven, and the dutch oven.

Pop the dough with the parchment paper into the dutch oven and bake for 45 min with a lid on and 15 more minutes without the lid.

The best part? My iron cast dutch oven worked hard for me, but it doesn’t even need cleaning. The wax paper took care of everything. I just have the counter and the bowl/spoon to clean up. How’s that for a shortcut?

Let the bread cool for at least 10 minutes before you cut it. Enjoy moderately!


Strawberry Shortcake

Posted on

As a breakfast food or as a dessert, strawberry shortcake does not disappoint. I like mine in the morning, for breakfast, with the sauce over it and topped with banana slices. The picture does not do it justice, but then I have already told you this is not a food blog, right? Without further ado, here is the recipe.

Strawberry shortcake

Strawberry shortcake

 

Ingredients

1/3 c oil

3/4 c non-dairy milk

2 Tbsp. Sugar-in-the-Raw

1 tsp. vanilla

2 c flour

1 tsp. salt

3 tsp. aluminium-free baking powder

1 lb. strawberries, fresh or frozen

2 Tbsp. cornstarch Continue reading »

1 c water

bananas, optional

 

Preparation

Pre-heat oven to 375 F. Spray a round cake pan with oil spray. Mix wet ingredients together in a large cup or mixing bowl with a lip. Mix dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and mix well. You should get a rather stiff dough.

Spoon it into the prepared cake pan and bake for 20 minutes. Toothpick should come out clean. While the cake is baking, wash and chop your strawberries. Transfer them to a pot cover them with water. Add a pinch of salt to get their juices flowing. If using frozen fruit, it will take a couple of minutes before you can stir and separate them. Let the heat do its job to thaw your fruit.

Once they are boiling, reduce the heat. In a clean cup, whisk water with cornstarch until you can see or feel no more lumps. Then add the mixture to the fruit and mix well to distribute it evenly. Add sweetener of your choice and cook until thickened, another five minutes or so.

Pour over your sliced shortcake and top with non-dairy whipped cream, vegan cream, banana slices, chocolate chips, peanut butter chips or any other chopped fruit. You could use any other fruit instead of strawberries: blueberries, peaches etc. Enjoy with moderation!


Scrambled Tofu

Posted on

If you like scrambled eggs but your cholesterol is over 200 overall, you might want to learn how to fix scrambled tofu. You get 0 cholesterol and all the benefits of lean protein. The taste, while not close to eggs, is savory and delicious. You can put it on toast and serve it with tomato slices or, even better, on a bagel, with your favorite orange juice or warm morning drink. I like Kaffree Roma prepared with rice milk. If you add a teaspoon of honey, it tastes better than hot chocolate.

Scrambled tofu and toast

Scrambled tofu and toast

As you know, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. A hot breakfast based on lean protein helps your homeschooling day go much better than a high-sugar cold cereal one.  Continue reading »

Add a delicious apple or orange, a banana or berries, grapes or pears, and you have the perfect formula for your little homeschoolers to have mens sana in corpore sano (a healthy mind in a healthy body), as my ancestors the Romans used to say.

 

Ingredients

1 container of firm or extra firm tofu (about 1 pound)

1 tsp Bragg’s Liquid Aminos

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp McKays’ chicken-style seasoning

1/2 tsp dried parsley flakes

salt to taste

 

Preparation

Open the tofu container over a sink and drain well. Transfer to a big bowl and mash with a fork or a mashing tool (like the one you use for mashed potatoes). Add all the condiments and mix well. Taste and adjust for salt. Move to a nonstick skillet and stir often over medium heat, until most of the moisture has evaporated and the scrambled tofu is hot and has changed color from off white to yellow.

The turmeric will give it this yellow color as the scrambled tofu heats up. It might be fun to show the kids this “science experiment.” It should be done in about 10 minutes. There is no need to add oil, so this will be a lean protein meal – the best!