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Category Archives: Winter squash

Spaghetti Squash with Pesto

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My neighbor and I occasionally swap produce from our Bountiful Baskets.  She mostly gets peppers and other members of the nightshade family that we won’t use.  We get wonderful things in return.  Most recently we received some spaghetti squash.  Have I mentioned how we love winter squashes?  With the seeds inside you get dinner and a snack.


I wish I’d remembered to take a picture when I first cooked this meal.  It got a little mushy after being in the slow cooker during church on Sunday.  Then most of the texture was gone when we reheated the leftovers.   That and it normally has a bit more bright green from the pesto, but I put the mushrooms in at the wrong spot and the color faded with the extended cooking.  Despite that, it tasted great, and several people at church asked for the recipe.  So here you go…

Oh, you can substitute cooked cannellini or cranberry beans in the place of the meat to make this vegan.  That is if you leave the cheese out of your pesto sauce like I do.

Spaghetti Squash with Pesto

1 large spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
3-4 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb ground pork
4 oz mushrooms, sliced
1 cup vegan pesto sauce
salt to taste

Brush the cut side of the squash with olive oil.  Place the squash cut side down on a baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 45-60 minutes (varies by size).  You should be able to pierce the flesh with a fork easily without the spaghetti-like texture of the squash becoming mushy.  It should be easy to scoop from the skin.  Remove the squash from the oven and cool for ten minutes (or grab it with a pot holder like I do).  Scoop the insides into a large bowl.

In a skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, garlic, and a pinch of salt.  Saute until the onions are translucent.

Brown the ground pork with the onions.  When it is almost cooked through, add in the mushrooms.  Saute until everything is completely cooked.  Stir in the pesto sauce and warm it slightly.

Toss the meat sauce with the cooked spaghetti squash.  Serve with a side salad.


The Ninth Day of Christmas: Pasteles

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I’m one of those people that asks questions of other shoppers while in ethnic food stores.

“What is this?  What is your favorite way to cook it?”

Most times I get a cursory answer or someone who doesn’t speak my language any more that I do of theirs.  Sometimes, though, I meet that friendly person who is delighted to share their culinary knowledge.  Right before Christmas was one of these times.

I asked about an herb that was right next to the cilantro.  It was called recao (or culantro).  This lovely lady was using it to make Recaito (Puerto Rican sofrito) for Pasteles.  She spent time telling me in detail about Pasteles.  She gave me enough information that I was able to go home and track down a recipe.

Pasteles are very similar to tamales, only the masa is made of quite a variety of tubers, gourds, and green bananas.  Then you boil the pasteles submerged in water rather than steaming them like tamales.

I didn’t think that I was going to manage to make these this year seeing as I was out of fresh pumpkin and didn’t have plans to acquire any.  However, I ended up bringing my mom’s last pumpkin home from our Christmas festivities as she wasn’t going to manage to use it before it went bad.

Since I was already shopping for tamale supplies, I simply got enough banana leaves for this process as well as the few extra ingredients.

I followed this recipe using the food processor instructions.  I simply substituted pureed Mexican zucchini for the peppers and tomatoes in this recipe and the recaito.  I froze the extra recaito in an ice cube tray to use another time.

I found annatto seeds at an ethnic grocery store.  To make annatto oil infused 2/3 cup canola oil with about 1 1/2 teaspoon annatto seeds on low for about 20 minutes.  This way I could season the meat and infuse the oil without having the rest of a bottle of annatto oil hanging around my pantry.

For the sazon packet I sprinkled 1/2 teaspoon each of ground coriander, ground cumin, annatto seeds, and garlic powder into the pot with the meat along with the other ingredients in the recipe.

Also, yautias are tubers called taro or malanga at the grocery stores near me.  However, taro is also a name given to a smaller tuber.  Yautias are larger than baking potatoes, while true taro is smaller than a red potato.  I read that either will work, but the malanga is the most traditional.

John and I liked the pasteles.  We though they were a fun derivation from our tamales.  However, of all three children only Little Man liked them.  I guess we’ll have to stick to tamale making in the future.

The Fifth Day of Christmas: Spiral Pasta with Ground Turkey and Butternut Sauce

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Tonight’s dinner was at Little Man’s Christmas meal request.  He loves pasta.  He would eat it at every meal if I would let him.  His request was actually only one word, “Pasta!”  He did not care what kind of sauce as long as there was pasta involved.

For tonight, I modified my Vegan Butternut Squash Sauce slightly.  The additions make the meal no longer vegan, but I can live with that.  I had the butternut squash cooked and pureed in the freezer, so the meal came together quickly.  The swiss chard was also already in my freezer from my garden this fall.  I didn’t have any fresh basil on hand, so I used dried instead.  It really does make a difference, but dried is better than nothing.

I really like this meal better with ground pork, but the grocery store was out when I was shopping.  Turkey is my second choice.  Just be sure to get the higher fat percentage turkey, or the meat will be too dry for my taste.

Butternut Pasta Sauce
Spiral Pasta with Ground Turkey and Butternut Sauce

One batch Butternut Sauce, prepared ahead of these instructions
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp salt, to taste
1 lb ground turkey (or pork)
Fresh or frozen swiss chard (or spinach), to taste
1.5 lbs gluten free spiral pasta, cooked

Start a pot to boil and cook the pasta according to package instructions.

In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic, onions, fennel, thyme, and salt.  Sautee about five minutes.

Add the ground meat and cook thoroughly.

Add the swiss chard.  Wilt if fresh, and warm if frozen.

Pour in the butternut sauce and warm throughout.

Pour the sauce over the cooked pasta and serve with a side salad if desired.

The Feast of Saint Nicholas: Cilantro Pesto

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Blessed Feast!

I was raised with the true story of St. Nicholas.  I always knew the truth of the Santa legends and promptly hugged Grandma after receiving gifts marked “from Santa.”  When we became Orthodox, celebrating St. Nicholas Day seemed only natural.  We decorated the mantle on Wednesday and put up our stockings last night.  The kids can’t wait to put up the tree, but they will have to wait a bit longer for that.

We were iced in and chose not to brave the slippery twenty mile drive to liturgy this morning.  Instead John made pumpkin pancakes, and I put out our St. Nicholas treats.

Nuts and chocolate coins are traditional St. Nicholas treats.  I made vegan carob coins in my mini muffin tin using this recipe plus a pinch of salt.  Last year I made them too thin; this year they are too thick.  Maybe next year I’ll get them just right.  The little clogs were stitched in felt from this pattern.  I can’t bring myself to put food in the same shoes that their feet have been inside, so I made those little clogs instead.

After breakfast we pulled out this book–a relic of my childhood collection.  We snuggled up with blankets and read from our basket of Christmas books.  We watched holiday movies, played outside in the icy wonderland, played board games, filled the bird feeders, and strung popcorn for the birds.   The bird feeding idea popped up twice this week in my internet subscriptions; both here and here.

Our poor confused tree, stuck between seasons.

Our poor confused tree, stuck between seasons.

Snuggle Bunny

Snuggle Bunny

Little Man

Little Man

Ice on the rose bush.

Ice on the rose bush.

Since it’s a feast day, fish is allowed.  That means shrimp for us!  John and the kids picked a lot of cilantro for our CSA farmer earlier this week, so I found this recipe that I modified for our purposes.  Normally I would have used brown rice, but my aunt gave me gallon of white jasmine at Thanksgiving.  What a better day for a white rice treat than a feast day?  I served this with a little salad and a variety of roasted baby winter squash from our CSA.  We like to think of them as squash fries that you don’t have to peel first.  You just eat them right out of their skins after they are cooked.


Shrimp with Cilantro Pesto

1 heaping cup cilantro leaves, washed
6-8 green onions, roughly chopped
2-3 Tbsp pecans (didn’t measure)
1 clove garlic
1-2 tsp agave syrup (I am out of white sugar and it worked just as well)
1 Tbsp rice vinegar (any vinegar would work)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp salt, to taste

3 cups dry jasmine rice, cooked according to package instructions
1 lb raw shrimp

Start your rice.

In a blender or food processor place the first eight ingredients.  Blend until mostly smooth.

Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  In a bowl toss the shrimp with a heaping tablespoon of the pesto and saute for 3-4 minutes in the skillet, until they are pink and opaque throughout.

Serve over rice with the extra pesto.

Pear-Pumpkin Soup

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This soup is fast and easy to make if you already have all the ingredients in the freezer.  I defrost all of the ingredients in advance, but that is most of the preparation that I had to do for dinner tonight.  The soup can be served hot or cold depending on the season and your preferences.  On warmer days I pair chilled soup with a simple salad, but today I served it warm with some toast made from Thanksgiving leftovers.  Sometimes I swap the beans with half a can of coconut milk.  It provides a subtly different soup, but my kids never seem to notice the difference.

Pear-Pumpkin Soup
I double this recipe for my family, but this smaller version is all that fits in my blender at one time.

Pear-Pumpkin Soup

1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 – 1 tsp salt, to taste
2 cups cooked pureed pumpkin (about one 15 oz can)
1 1/2 cups cooked white beans
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup water
2 pears cored and sliced

Add all ingredients to the blender and blend until smooth. Warm gently if desired.

This may be served chilled or warm with sides of toast, salad, or both.

Third Sunday of the Nativity Fast: Butternut and Sage Angel Hair Pasta

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This third Sunday of the Nativity Fast finds us ready for bed early after a busy week of family, friends and finished projects.  We lit the third candle in our advent wreath and began our week long discussion on this week’s theme of love.  While The Liturgical Year for Little Ones has a fun activity for this week, I think that we may just decorate our mantle and prepare our stockings for St. Nicholas’ Day on Friday.  (And to answer the question that is bugging the detail oriented, yes my “gold” candle is really silver.  I promised the kids that I would find a suitably colored replacement when we burn through the silver ones I already have.)

Gold/Silver Candle

Following the theme for this week, I have fallen in love with a tiny young man this week.  I have been steadily working on a baby quilt all week long and praying for the premature Baby John who will one day get to come home and enjoy the fruits of this labor.  Please continue to pray for this little fellow and his parents as they try to bring him home in time for Christmas.

I finished the quilt today!  I got the idea from this blog post.  The pattern is simple with six and a half inch squares and two and a half inch rectangles staggered for a nice effect.  The quilting is done in a herringbone pattern and truly takes this simply pieced pattern and transforms it into a wonderful blanket that will please for years to come.  I can never resist taking the scraps leftover from the quilt top and designing a simple pillow to compliment the quilt.

Baby John's Quilt
Before I share today’s recipe I must share with you one more way to show Christ’s love this holiday season.  A friend of mine, Alana Juliana, just received news last week that her husband, Wes Theophan, has the most aggressive form of brain cancer.  Juliana is a homeschooling mom who already lives with fibromyalgia.  Please pray for this family.  You can read more about their situation on Alana’s blog, Morning Coffee.  Please also consider helping them in their fundraising for Theophan’s treatments that will begin soon.  Thank you!

Butternut Squash-Sage Pasta
This recipe was inspired by Michael Symon’s recipe from The Chew.  I had to modify it a bit to make it dairy free, but all of the important parts are there.

Butternut and Sage Angel Hair Pasta

1 1/2 pounds GF Angel Hair Pasta
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium Butternut Squash, 1/3″ dice
4-6 tablespoons olive oil
1 tsp salt
8-10 sage leaves, minced
1/2 cup Vegan Parmesan Cheeze, optional (adjust salt to taste if you are omitting)

Cook the pasta according to package instructions.

In a deep skillet heat the oil, garlic, and salt over low heat.  Peel and dice the butternut squash reserving the seeds for a snack another day.

Raise temperature of the skillet to medium, and then add the diced butternut squash and minced sage.  Allow the squash to saute and lightly brown for about 8-10 minutes or until fork tender.

Deglaze the pan with a little of the pasta water and toss the butternut squash with the cooked pasta.  Top with cheeze if desired and salt to taste.

First Sunday of the Nativity Fast: Garlic-Sage Spaghetti Squash

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Yesterday was the first Sunday of the Nativity Fast.  Our Advent has begun.  While we are trying to keep things quiet and simple, we’d always had an Advent wreath before we joined the Orthodox Church.  However, now advent is a little longer than it was before.  With a little looking, I found this idea for a wreath with seven candles.  We use this plan along with some ideas from Liturgical Year for Little Ones to help us focus on the season at hand.

Green Candle - Faith

While we didn’t have time last night to get out the whole wreath, we did pull out the green candle and complete our readings.  While we continue our theme this week of faith, we discuss how God takes care of us in every way.  This is particularly evident as we attempt to follow the guidelines of the fast and think outside ourselves to make a family plan for alms giving.  To aid our discussion this year, I found this book at the library.  It presents different families around the world alongside the food that they eat in a week.  It is eye opening to young and old to see this information in such a visual format.  There is also a companion book that shows families with all of their material possessions.  I think that it will be a great one to use in the next few weeks as we purge toys and clothes before Christmas.

I won’t tell you the particulars of our family’s alms giving plans.  That part is for each family to decide.  There are Christian charities and secular charities; local and global.  Choose what you will, choose within your means, and choose something meaningful for your family.  Whatever you do, do it out of love for God and your fellow man.

Saturday night my mom made my Adzuki Beans with Kabocha Squash in the slow cooker.  Thanks, Mom!  Tonight we repeated our burritos with pinto beans, orange sweet potatoes, and caramelized onions.  Hence the quiet here this weekend.

Garlic Sage Spaghetti Squash

The new recipe was Sunday’s dinner.

Garlic-Sage Spaghetti Squash

1 spaghetti squash, seeded
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup olive oil
1-2 tsp salt, to taste
15-20 sage leaves from the garden, thinly sliced (try 1 tsp dried)
1 bunch spinach, kale, or swiss chard, thinly sliced
3 cups white or cranberry beans, cooked (don’t forget to cook them, mine were already frozen)
side salad

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place the squash cut side down on a baking sheet and roast for 45-60 minutes or until tender.  Cool and scoop out the flesh.

While cooling the squash, heat a skillet on med-low heat.  Add the oil, garlic, and salt.  Gently infuse the garlic for 5-10 minutes being careful not to burn the garlic.  Turn down the heat if necessary.

Add the sage and the greens and stir until wilted.  Stir in the beans and heat until warm.

Toss with the cooked spaghetti squash and serve with a side salad.