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Posts Tagged ‘Butternut squash’

cooking up a storm

cooking up a storm

Cadie and I got home from Christmas on Boxing Day. She had been with my Mum since December 21, and I got there on December 23, so by the time Christmas night rolled around I was ready for my own bed. I was ready for my own schedule, and also, I was anxious to get home ahead of the snow storm that was due to hit around dinner on the 26. So we woke up bright and early, and we were home by noon.

Cadie, being an adventurer, was ready to head out, to go and sniff the news and leave some gossip of her own, and she danced happily in front of the door while I made my lunch and changed my clothes.

I wanted to do something nice for Cadie. She had been gone nearly a week, and before that I had been working like a Trojan. So I decided that instead of spending Boxing day at the sales, we would spend it on the trails. There’s nothing like clean, cold air filling your lungs to encourage you to walk faster, and the sun…we hadn’t seen the sun in almost a month. So we headed out, with plans to hike through the Brickworks trail and the valley, and then come home through the cemetery. It’s one of our favourite evening walks during the nicer, warmer, lighter months.

But it had been a while since we had really walked, and as I made my way up the gentle incline of the city streets I felt my calf muscles crack, like they had been encased in wax and were just now breaking free. The further I walked the more my calves cracked, until I felt that I was totally free of my doldrums, and I could feel my muscles breathing freely. They expanded and contracted with every step, and with every step I was reminded why I like a healthy, active lifestyle. It was while I was walking my exuberant dog that I decided that I needed a make over. Not a physical make over—I decided to make over my freezer.

December is the perfect time of year to fill our freezers with yummy things like cakes, cookies, and appetizers. After living on this food for most of December I started to feel poisoned, or toxic. So I set about to fix that. I dedicated the last bit of my Christmas holiday to starting the year off with a healthy bang.

Step 1: I emptied the freezer of all of those delicious freezer cookies. This was hard work, but luckily my estimates had been pretty close, and I didn’t have to “dispose” of too much. Then I settled on 3 meals: high-yield recipes that I could make, one day at a time, and fill my freezer with nutritious meals that I could grab and eat without too much fuss.

It looks and tastes so good I couldn't eat just one serving

It looks and tastes so good I couldn’t eat just one serving

First I made Chef Chloe’s macaroni and “cheese.” It took only 45 minutes to prepare and cook, and tasted spectacular. I love mac and cheese, and I was worried that making it without any real cheese the dish would be inedible. I was wrong. I’m new to the plant-based diet thing, but I am constantly amazed at the good that nutritional yeast flakes can do. They gave the meal its cheesy taste, without adding the cheesy texture that I don’t really like. I have since made this meal again, and fed it to carnivores, who also loved it. I was able to get 8 meals out of this.

On the second day I made another of Chef Chloe’s recipes (I’ll give you two guesses at what my sister-in-law gave me for Christmas). This time I made a gorgeous apple, lentil and butternut squash stew. It was the first picture I fell in love with as I sat flipping through the book Christmas morning, and I was so excited to try it out. Lentils are really good for us, being a good source of protein, as well as offering a host of other benefits including lowering cholesterol, and stabilizing blood glucose. It’s hard to ignore food that offers so much goodness, but I needed an appealing delivery system, and this stew fills the need perfectly. It was sweet, warm and filling with an unmistakable earthiness. My stew isn’t nearly as beautiful as the one in the book, but it was oh, so tasty, and I got 7 additional meals.

Apple, lentil and butternut squash stew. My favourite of the three.

Apple, lentil and butternut squash stew. My favourite of the three.

Finally I made a chilli. I love chilli, and I make it all the time, so when I was buying my cooking supplies I made sure to pick up the chilli supplies. There was nothing special about it: onion, veggie round, tomatoes and beans, all simmered together until they become one. Chilli is just the most satisfying winter meal, and I got 6 meals out of it. All of this means that my freezer is just packed to the gills with tasty, vegany goodness, so now I don’t have any excuse not to eat healthy meals throughout January.

It never hurts to have a pot of chilli on hand.

It never hurts to have a pot of chilli on hand.

I’m not really doing resolutions this year; I haven’t found them to be very successful in the past, so I decided not to push myself into the self-punishing exercise of self-improvement. Instead I’m going to focus on doing things that make me stronger and healthier and, most importantly, that make my life easier. So now that I have no excuse not to skip lunches in the caf, I’m hoping that a month of nothing but good, healthy food will leave me feeling like a clean, well-oiled machine.

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Cooking is new to me. I know, it’s not much of a confession, anyone who knows anything about cooking, baking, grocery shopping or being in the kitchen can tell that I know next to nothing about cooking. Imagine my humiliation last week when I announced that I had made a spaghetti squash dish, only to discover that it was actually a butternut squash. And thank you to all of you who did not make fun of my total ignorance. In my defence, the squash were mislabeled at the grocery store, so really, I would like to shove the blame onto someone else.

This is a spaghetti squash. Now I know. I also know that I love butternut squash, so I guess there is a silver lining. As you can see spaghetti squash is very tough, and bested even my best and sharpest knife. It was so scary that I considered locking the dog in the bathroom until I was done cutting.

As you can see I made it through, and I still have all of my original fingers and toes. I also did not stab myself in the abdomen and the dog is still alive, so…all things considered it was a success.

I was a little bit concerned about waste, but I decided it wasn’t worth risking more knife work to salvage what was left of the squash. So I took what I had and seasoned with butter, pepper, coarse salt, and then my hand landed on the cumin, and I thought “why not?” so there’s also cumin in this dish.

I roasted the squash for 45 minutes, but I don’t think it was enough; my squash was a little el dente.

I was totally stunned by just how much like spaghetti this looked. Nature does some funny and amazing things sometimes.

Then I added in my warmed up quinoa, tomatoes, zucchini and onion. I also added more seasoning: Salt, pepper, butter, and..why not, more cumin!

Finally, I added the salmon and a touch of lemon juice. I mixed it all together until I ended up with this.

Yum! So I would do a few things differently: I would roast the squash longer, so that it’s just a little more tender. Also, I would use a little less cumin. It was good, just a little too much for my taste. Otherwise, I loved it. I found it very filling, and I would totally make it again.

But first, I need to get a much better knife.

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