Settling In to Fall

DSC_0693Although the official first day of fall is still a week away, there’s no denying that it’s already here. That autumn chill is in the air, leaves are just starting to turn, and it’s darker and darker each morning when I wake up. It’s sad to see summer go, but part of this transition is comforting. Fall is about beginnings – for many (and me this year) it’s time to go back to school, which is a natural transition time. We’ll all take fewer vacations in the next 3 months, meaning we all settle in where we are at home. It’s rather nice when you think of it that way.

As a friend recently put it – summer is about family and fall is about friends. We probably all spend more time with our friends in the fall than in the summer. Summer is full of family reunions and vacations, and fall is more community focused, through watching sports events, going apple picking, dressing up for Halloween. It’s a great time to connect with your larger family in the community around you.

So, in honor of everything fall has to offer (such as apple picking, corn mazes, pumpkin carving, pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin flavored everything, boots, sweaters – do I sound cliche yet?), I’m sharing three previous posts that remind me why this season is so great.

  1. 4 Tips for Soup Season – how to make the most of the cooler weather and fall vegetables
  2. Butternut squash soup – put those tips to good use (plus a story about that time Evan read my diary)
  3. Will Run for Pie – a reflection on one of my favorite fall traditions, the NMH Pie Race (bonus: my simple apple pie recipe)

What are you excited about this fall?

Thanksgiving Round-Up

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I feel a little guilty for not posting more Thanksgiving-themed recipes this week. Thanksgiving is like the Olympics of food events and I feel like I’m not doing it justice! I had every intention of sharing something new for your Thanksgiving feast. Last week, I attempted to make pomegranate-glazed Brussels sprouts but failed. It was a good idea in concept, but the finished product was a strange brownish reddish green color and tasted pretty sour. It wasn’t pretty.

To make up for my lack turkey-inspired recipes, here are a few past recipes that would be perfect additions to your Thanksgiving dinner. Have a happy turkey day!

Thanksgiving Round-Up

  • Sriracha Kale Chips: Crisp up a head of kale while the turkey is in the oven. These are a great snack to have on hand while everyone is hanging (or helping) out before dinner.
  • Butternut Squash Soup: Try soup instead of mashed butternut squash – this would be a perfect appetizer before the main Thanksgiving meal.
  • Oven-Fried Tomatoes: Not a traditional side dish for Thanksgiving, but sure to be a welcome addition to the table.
  • Simple Apple Pie: A classic turkey day dessert – make sure to save some room!

Butternut Squash Soup

My good friend Evan, who I grew up with, read my journal once. We were in middle school and he was over at my house and he snooped.  Unfortunately (for both of us), he happened to find an entry where I mentioned him… in not the nicest day. Luckily, we remained friends, but to this day Evan gives me a hard time about it – even though he’s the one who snooped!

Starting a blog is, in some ways, like sharing your journal with everyone. Evan and I are still traumatized from the one time he read something relatively harmless in my journal, and here I am sharing parts of my life with the entire internet. Granted, I get to pick and choose what you read about me (whereas my journal was meant to be private), but in some ways it feels similar.

So, to protect all of us, I’m going to keep some of my secrets to myself. For example, I’m keeping my signature Turkey Pot Pie recipe locked up, even though I’ll be making it for Friendsgiving this weekend (more to come on that next week). It’s not even a good fit for CLK (too time intensive and not healthy enough), but even if it was, it’s special to me so I’m going to keep it under wraps.

I’m still not so sure about sharing this secret with you, but I’m going for it. I’m about to reveal my secret for making any type of soup. It’s a fool proof recipe. It’s actually less of a recipe than it is an equation. It boils down to:

Liquid + Vegetable + Protein = Soup

The proportions depend on how you like your soup. If you like a thicker soup (such as chowder), add more vegetable and less liquid. The protein can be blended into the soup, mixed in to the soup, served on the side, or right on top. Confused? Here are some pieces to make the puzzle come together:

  • Liquids: any variety of broth or stock (chicken, beef, vegetable, seafood), water, or milk
  • Vegetables: asparagus, squash, tomatoes, potatoes, corn… anything your heart desires
  • Protein: for blending: any type of bean or silken tofu; for mixing: quinoa, faro, or other whole grains; on the side: chicken, beef, or shrimp; on top: quinoa, cheese, or more beans.

You can combine more than one vegetable or liquid to come up with the best balance for you. Trust me, this is fool proof. For this recipe, I used water and chicken broth for the liquid, onions and butternut squash for the vegetable, and quinoa on top as my protein. Let me know what combinations you come up with and keep my secret safe!

Butternut Squash Soup

Cook ½ cup dry quinoa according to package directions. In a large saucepan, sauté 1 cup diced onion in 1 tablespoon butter. When the onions are translucent, add 3 cups diced butternut squash, 3 cups chicken broth, and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and simmer until squash is fork tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and blend until smooth. Add ½ teaspoon salt.  Serve each portion topped with ¼ cup cooked quinoa. Yield: 3 servings. Serving size: 2 cups. Per Serving: $2.77, 148 calories, 1g fat, 33g carbs, 6g protein.

Butternut Squash & Kale Lasagna Rolls

Anything served in a pan (brownies, casserole, and, in this instance, lasagna) comes with risk of overeating. You start by cutting yourself a reasonably sized piece and enjoy every last cheesy, saucy bite… and just want one more taste. So you go back to the pan and cut yourself a tiny little sliver more just so you can have one more bite. And then you have one more tiny little piece, and another, and another… and by the end you’ve had three times as much as you first put on your plate. It’s inevitable.

To save yourself from over-indulging, try this creative take on lasagna; rather than layering everything in the pan, the lasagna noodles are rolled up with the filling inside. For this reason, you need to use traditional lasagna noodles rather than the ready-to-bake version. It’s a little messier to prepare, but much easier to serve (and control) – just portion out 2 rolls per person.

This is a perfect recipe for entertaining. Not only will it impress your friends, it’s easy to prepare in advance.  Assemble the rolls but instead of baking, pop them in the fridge. 45 minutes before dinner – while your guests are enjoying wine and apps – throw the lasagna in the oven. You can also prepare this recipe up to a month in advance and freeze it, defrosting it in the fridge the night before you’re expecting guests.

Serve with a fresh side salad, sautéed asparagus, or all alone. If you end up with too much filling and not enough noodles, whip up some eggs for a high-end scramble!

Butternut Squash, Kale and Turkey Lasagna Rolls

Cook 6 lasagna noodles according to package directions. When done, lay the noodles on greased cookie sheets so that they are not touching to avoid sticking together.

Steam 2 ½ cups of diced butternut squash until soft, about 10 minutes, and set aside. Steam 4 cups of kale until dark green, about 15 minutes. Sauté ½ cup diced onions in ½ tablespoon olive oil until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add ½ pound ground turkey and saute until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Mash squash and mix with ½ cup ricotta cheese and 1 egg until smooth.  Roughly chop kale.  Spray two bread pans with cooking spray.  Spread ricotta-squash mixture onto cooked lasagne rolls, top with kale, and then ground turkey-onion mixture.  Roll along the short side and place in pan with the open end down.  Repeat with remaining noodles, placing three rolls in each pan.  Top each bread pan with 6 tablespoons tomato sauce and ¼ cup of mozzarella cheese, divided between the two pans.

Cover with tin foil and bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, remove tin foil and bake for another 10 minutes. If preparing from frozen, defrost the lasagna in the fridge overnight before baking.

Yield: 3 servings. Serving size: 2 rolls. Per Serving: $3.39, 506 calories, 15g fat, 77g carbs, 32g protein.