Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sausage and Rice Stuffed Acorn Squash

I've had an acorn squash sitting in my pantry for a couple of months (luckily squash are forgiving when it comes to going bad). Now, I love squash so I'm not sure why it has been sitting there taunting me for so long, but that is just the way it goes some times.

I decided that it was finally time to cook the thing. And since it had been waiting patiently for me to cook it, I decided that I wanted to try something new and maybe a little special.

Here's the ingredients:

1 cup rice, cooked (I used a brown and wild rice mix, but any old rice would work)
2 chicken sausages, casings removed (I used a hot Italian variety but another kind of sausage would work too)
1/2 onion, diced
5 mushrooms, sliced
2 clove garlic, minced
4-5 leaves sage, chopped
2-3 sprig thyme, chopped
2 Tablespoon Alfredo sauce (yes, I could have made a little bechamel sauce here but I had half a jar of sauce leftover from a lazy/tired night of cooking dinner, so I used that instead, and it worked great, so why go to the extra effort)
1-2 ounces Parmesan cheese, plus a little more for the top
1 acorn squash, cut in half with the seeds and what not scooped out

To start, I cooked the rice in my rice cooker. While that was going I browned the sausage along with the onion, then after a couple of minutes I added the mushrooms, garlic, sage and thyme (some rosemary would have been great too, but alas, the super cold week we had here killed off my rosemary) and continued to cook the mixture until the onions were translucent and the mushrooms were browned. I removed this from the heat and stirred in the cooked rice, Alfredo sauce and Parmesan cheese. At this point I cooled the mixture down and stashed it in the fridge (I had a big spurt of cooking energy so I cooked this filling while I made a different dinner), but I could have easily continued on at this point.

A couple of days later I continued on with my cooking. I stuffed the rice mixture into the cavity of the squash and then piled some more on top for good measure. I made a couple of rings out of aluminum foil and placed each of the squash halves on each of the rings so that they couldn't roll around while they were in the oven.

I covered this loosely with a piece of aluminum foil and popped it in a 350 degree oven. After an hour of cooking, I took the foil off and added a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. After another 20 minutes the squash was cooked through and the rice mixture was nice and bubbly.

I served the stuffed squash alongside a pear and romaine salad.

This turned out really good. With each bite a little bit of rice, a little squash and a little sausage, yummy. The husband really liked it too, a lot. And he is not a huge squash fan so that surprised me a little. I can imagine a few variations on this meal (different rice, different meat (or no meat), different cheese) and I can hardly wait to try them.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Glazed Carrots and Parsnips

Originally I intended to write this post about my take on Pioneer Woman's Crash Hot Potatoes (and I will add a few notes on those later) but the vegetable side dish I made turned out so delectable that I decided to write about it instead.

Here are the ingredients:

2 medium carrots
1 large parsnip
2 teaspoon butter
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
2 Tablespoon pecans, toasted

I peeled the carrots and the parsnip then cut the carrots on the bias into 1/4 inch slices. I sliced the parsnip in half lengthwise and removed the woody core before slicing each of the halves on the bias into 1/4 inch slices.

In a saute pan, I melted the butter and then added the vegetables to the pan along with a little salt and pepper. I added about a tablespoon of water and covered the pan so the vegetables would steam through. After a couple of minutes I removed the lid and added the brown sugar, stirring until the sugar had melted and the vegetables were cooked through, about another minute. I tossed in the pecans, gave it one last stir and that was it.

I served the carrots alongside a flat-iron steak with balsamic caramelized onions and the aforementioned potatoes (with a couple of tweaks). I used purple potatoes and Yukon golds as the potatoes, thyme instead of rosemary, and added a little sprinkle of blue cheese during the last couple of minutes of baking.

Seriously, these were so good (and the potatoes and steak weren't have bad either). I'm sure they would be good with all carrots or all parsnips or with almonds instead of pecans. These were so easy to make too. I highly recommend these for your favorite vegetable lover (or maybe even a vegetable hater, they are that good).

Friday, January 22, 2010

Treats for Your Sweet

As part of my fundraising efforts for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training program I will be making delicious Cake Truffle Balls for purchase.

To order, print out and fill out the attached form and return it, along with payment to D. Ted or Jennifer Harris by Feb 5.

All proceeds will go directly to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

To find out more about my Team in Training event please visit my fundraising Web site If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bad Blogger, with Good Reason

Lately I've been a bad blogger, but I've had good reason. Last week as part of my fundraising for my Team in Training event and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society I threw a Hawaiian Feast. I spent a fairly sizable amount of time menu planning, finding door prize donors, creating gift certificates, coordinating volunteers, making signs, etc. It was more work than I imagined (but in the end it was totally worth it). This left me with little energy for cooking much less blogging.

The menu for the feast consisted of lots of yummy traditional Hawaiian food. Here's what I prepared (with the help of some great volunteers):

Spam Musubi (think sushi but with fried spam instead of fish)
Ahi Poke (pronounced po-kay)
Kalua Pork
Chicken Luau
White Rice
Hawaiian Macaroni Salad (trust me, it's different from mainland macaroni salad)
Tropical Fruit
Cupcakes (from New York Cupcakes, delicious)

I also made Haupia which is a coconut milk pudding/gelatin concoction, but it never set so I couldn't serve it.

My favorites from the night were the Kalua Pork and the Ahi Poke. I thought I would pass along the recipes.

Traditionally at a luau the Kalua Pork would be a whole pig, cooked all day in an underground imu. Obviously that is not practical for most cooks. I used pork shoulder which is not only cheap, but also very tasty. This recipe is from Epicurious.

Kalua Pork

5 pound boneless pork butt roast
2 Tablespoon Hawaiian sea salt or course sea salt
3 frozen banana leaves, thawed
4 cup Water

2 cup water
2 teaspoon Hawaiian sea salt or course sea salt
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke

Instructions: Preheat oven to 350°F. Using small sharp knife, cut 1/4-inch-deep slits 1 inch apart all over pork roast. Rub 2 tablespoons sea salt all over pork. Unfold 1 banana leaf on work surface and place pork roast atop leaf. Fold up leaf around pork, enclosing completely. Repeat wrapping pork in remaining 2 banana leaves, 1 at a time.

Tie with kitchen string to secure, then wrap roast in foil. Place pork in roasting pan; pour 4 cups water into pan.

Roast pork in oven until very tender when pierced with fork, about 5 hours. Unwrap pork and cool slightly. Shred pork and place in large bowl.

Bring remaining 2 cups water and remaining 2 teaspoons salt to boil in small saucepan. Add liquid smoke; pour over pork and stir to blend. Let stand 10 minutes to allow liquid to flavor pork. Serve.

Ingredient tip: Hawaiian alaea sea salt is available at specialty foods stores and online from Hawaii Specialty Salt Company at Banana leaves are available at Asian markets and Latin markets. Liquid smoke is a smoke-flavored liquid seasoning available at many supermarkets and specialty foods stores.

My other favorite from the night was the Ahi Poke. There are lots of different recipes around for Poke, but the one I used came from a blog called Chaos in the Kitchen. Click the link to see her beautiful poke photo (which in the end was a large part of the reason I chose that recipe). I used frozen Ahi Tuna (QFC had donated a gift card for me to use for the event and frozen was all they had) and it actually turned out great (and was substantially less expensive than fresh would have been). I cut the tuna into 1/2 squares while it was still partially frozen which made it really easy to do. My version of the recipe makes 12-16 appetizer size servings.

Hawaiian Poke

16 ounce sushi-grade tuna
1/2 sweet or red onion, julienned
2 green onion, diced
1/4 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
2 clove garlic, minced
2 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoon black sesame seeds (or toasted)

Combine onion, green onion, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, sesame seeds and oil in a bowl.

Add bite sized pieces of tuna, mix well.

Chill the mixture for 15 minutes before serving so flavors can mix. Check for salt before serving, the soy sauce can be pretty salty without needing any additional salt.

Now that my event is in the books I can get back to blogging. I picked up my CSA box yesterday and I've already got some ideas brewing about what to make. A new entry will be coming soon, I promise.

P.S. I raised $706 for LLS with the Hawaiian Feast. A little less than I was hoping for, but not too bad.
The thing that really touched me was the willingness of my friends to give of their time and talents to help make my event a success. Some friends gave amazing door prizes, others spent hours in the kitchen helping me prep and serve, another spent the evening as our DJ (setting an awesome tropical mood) and a few helped collect money at the door, sell raffle tickets and bar tend. I could not have had a successful event without all of their help.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What's in the Box?

0.4 pound Cremini Mushrooms

1 pound Roma Tomatoes
1.5 pounds Yukon Gold Potatoes
2 Yellow Onions
1 Bunch Carrots
2 Red Bell Peppers
1 Acorn Squash
1 pound Zucchini
1 pound Parsnips
1 head Romaine Lettuce
1 Cucumber
4 D'anjou Pears
3 Pink Lady Apples