Bacon brussel sprout pizza

Good evening all!  I may have mentioned on more than one occasion that my husband is one of those guys who finds a new food or restaurant, and that becomes the only thing that we can eat for weeks.  And weeks.  And weeks.  While most of the time this drives me absolutely nuts, since he already eats like a 12 year old when I don’t cook for him, I was pleasantly surprised when last year he became obsessed with brussel sprouts.  Since I’m continuously trying to get him to eat more vegetables, I was at least happy about eating these several times a week!

In England, brussel sprouts are typically eaten with Christmas dinner, boiled to death alongside the roast turkey.  The rest of the year, they don’t really exist for 99% of the population.  So, imagine my surprise when the waiter at our favorite restaurant recommended their brussel sprouts to us, and when they arrived they were even better than his recommendation had made them sound!  They were crispy, mixed with bacon and topped with parmesan cheese – absolutely delicious!  Since that day, I have made many attempts at recreating that wondrous bowl of vegetable bacony goodness, to varying degrees of success.  Even better though, is that every time my husband sees brussel sprouts with bacon on a menu, he orders them!  Our most recent variation was the bacon brussel sprout flatbread from California Pizza Kitchen, which we are both big fans of.  So when I had half a bag of my tiny green best friends left over from cooking roast chicken on Sunday night, I knew exactly what I was going to do with them.

Given the baby’s now 1.5 hour naps, I figured I could make the pizza dough from scratch if I did it early in the day.  The recipe I like is this one from Karrie at happymoneysaver.  I have made it in the food processor and in my stand mixer, and I don’t find any difference between the results of the 2 methods, so go with whichever you prefer.  Since we have the a/c on all the time here in Houston, I typically heat the oven to 200 F and then turn it off, to make a nice warm place for the dough to rise.  I do the same thing with bread.  For both I find it takes about an hour to double in size.  I made a full batch of the dough, which is enough for 8 servings, and froze the other 6 individually wrapped and placed into a large zip top bag.  I then kept the portion that I needed in a container in the fridge for the rest of the day.

This is not one of my “throw everything in one pan” recipes, but it is pretty quick and it’s worth making a couple of extra dishes for your other half to wash later!  If you refrigerated the dough, you’ll want to let it come back up to room temperature before you use it, so while that’s happening and your oven is preheating to 450 F, you can prepare the toppings.  I started with a basic cheese sauce:  melt the butter over a low heat, add the flour and cook for a couple of minutes.  Gradually add the milk, stirring or whisking to prevent lumps.  Once you get to around the consistency you want (I like it fairly thick for this), add the cheese and stir until it’s all melted.  If the sauce is now too thick, add a little more milk.  If it’s too thin, you can add a little more cheese.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

For the toppings:  Dice the bacon and cook over a medium heat to render the fat.  Cook to your desired crispiness, then remove the bacon from the pan, leaving the fat.  Add the thinly sliced onion to the bacon fat and cook over a low-medium heat until caramelized.  Remove the stems from the base of the brussel sprouts, cut in half lengthwise and finely slice.

Roll or stretch the pizza dough to your desired thickness (I find it’s better if it’s on the thin side), leaving a slightly thicker crust around the edge.  Spread a thin layer of the sauce over the base (if you have extra leftover it’ll be great with some pasta or in a croque monsieur for lunch!), and sprinkle the onion and bacon over.  Add the brussel sprouts, thyme and parmesan, and bake at 450 F for around 12-15 minutes until the crust is golden brown, rotating the baking sheet part way through if needed.

Bacon Brussel Sprout Pizza

My husband actually ate it, all of it, and said that he couldn’t even taste the vegetables!  That’s definitely not true, you can absolutely taste them, but what he means is that he doesn’t have to tell himself that it’s not vegetable in order to eat it!  It really is delicious, and completely customizable – whatever cheese, vegetables or other leftovers you have in the fridge would all be great.  Please let me know how it turns out if you try it!

Bacon Brussel Sprout Pizza

[ingredients]

For the pizza dough (credit: happymoneysaver.com):

This amount of dough is enough for 4 of these pizzas – the rest of it will freeze well in individual portions.

  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tbsp yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water

For the sauce:

  • 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • Approx. 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmesan

For the toppings:

  • 2-4 slices bacon
  • 1 small onion
  • 8-12 brussel sprouts
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 cup parmesan

[directions]

  1. Make the dough: mix the dry ingredients in a stand mixer or food processor.  Add the oil, then with the mixer running gradually add the water.  Once the dough comes together, place in a lightly greased bowl and leave to rise for about an hour, until doubled in size.  Knock the dough back to remove the air bubbles and portion as needed.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 450 F
  3. Dice the bacon and cook until crispy over a medium heat to render the fat.  Remove the bacon, but leave the fat in the pan.
  4. Finely slice the onion and add to the bacon fat.  Cook over a low-medium heat until caramelized.
  5. Trim, halve and finely slice the brussel sprouts.
  6. Make the sauce: melt the butter, add the flour and cook over a low heat for a few minutes.  Gradually add the milk, stirring or whisking to avoid clumps.  Once it reaches the desired consistency, add the cheese and continue to heat gently until melted.  Add more milk if the sauce is too thick, or more cheese if it’s too thin.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  7. Stretch or roll the dough out to roughly 8×12 inches, leaving it slightly thicker around the edge.
  8. Spread a thin layer of the sauce over the dough, leaving the edge uncovered.
  9. Sprinkle the onion and bacon over the sauce, and then cover with the brussel sprouts.
  10. Sprinkle the thyme and cheese over the top.
  11. Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown, turning the baking sheet part way through if needed.

 

 

Lemon lavender shortbread (gluten free!)

First of all, happy Easter!

This recipe is something that I first made for an Easter brunch last year.  My best friend offered to host, and so of course my first thought was to bake.  Actually, that’s usually my first thought, regardless of occasion!  She has a pretty serious gluten allergy, and I love that this challenges me to find new things to bake.  I’ve been baking with regular wheat flour since I was a child, but I’m still relatively new to the world of gluten free baking.

While searching for gluten free shortbread I found this beautiful and simple recipe from King Arthur flour.  The base shortbread recipe is only 4 ingredients: almond flour, confectioner’s sugar, vanilla extract and butter.  Throw everything together in a mixer, chill, slice and bake.  Even with a small monkey at home I can get that done.  Since I was making this for an Easter brunch, I wanted to go in a more “springy” direction with the flavor, so I opted for lemon and lavender.  I would suggest you don’t overdo it with the lavender – it’s a pretty strong flavor and can either end up a little bitter or smelling like Grandma’s soap, neither of which is overly appealing.  This is an incredibly versatile recipe that lends itself well to a variety of flavor combinations, and it’s so easy to make that you’d be able to whip up a batch for any event, whatever the season.

The add-ins for this recipe don’t require any additional steps in terms of the actual baking.  Just throw them into the mixer with everything else.  I added the zest of 1 lemon and 1/2 tbsp of food grade lavender which I had pulsed in a magic mix to grind it slightly, but you could put it in whole if you wanted.  Once everything starts to come together, turn it out onto a piece of plastic wrap and squeeze it into a log.  Chill for at least an hour to let the butter re-harden, slice into rounds approximately 1/4 inch thick and bake at 350 F for 12-14 minutes, until just starting to brown at the edges.  They’ll firm up as they cool, so don’t overbake them thinking that they’re still soft so they’re not done yet.  Been there, done that.

Of course, being me, this wasn’t enough work yet.  I so love to make things more complicated for myself, just in case everybody else doesn’t think they’re fancy enough.  So, once the shortbread had completely cooled, I half-dipped them in melted semi-sweet chocolate.  If you choose to melt your chocolate in the microwave, do it in small increments so that you don’t burn it.  Let the chocolate harden, and there you have it.  The most Easter-y thing I could come up with, completely gluten free, and totally melt in the mouth.  OK, so my chocolate isn’t going to be winning any awards any time soon, but unlike many gluten free baked things, these don’t have a weird cardboard-type texture and you won’t find yourself looking for the “real”  thing later on to make up for it.  So I consider that a win!

Gluten free lemon lavender shortbread

Base recipe: King Arthur Flour

Ingredients

  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 3 tbsp softened butter
  • 3 tbsp confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tbsp food-grade lavender, ground or whole, as desired
  • Optional – semi-sweet chocolate for coating

Directions

  1. Mix all ingredients in mixer with paddle attachment until a dough starts to form.
  2. Turn out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and shape into a log
  3. Wrap and chill for at least 1 hour
  4. Pre-heat oven to 350 F
  5. Slice chilled dough into rounds 1/4 inch thick
  6. Place on lined baking sheet and bake for 12-14 minutes
  7. Cool for 10 minutes on tray to allow cookies to firm up before transferring to wire rack
  8. Once completely cool, half dip the cookies into melted chocolate, if using.

 

Oatmeal “cupcakes”

Being a nursing mom, there’s one thing that I spend a fair amount of my baby’s nap times doing.  No, sadly not sleeping.  Eating.  I eat A LOT!  While originally I was concerned about when I was going to lose the weight, I found that what I was really concerned about was when I could stop wearing maternity jeans and wear “real clothes” again.  Well, during all of the planning of workouts and counting of calories I discovered that what is far more important to me than that is producing enough milk to feed my tiny boy with a seemingly monstrous appetite.  Once again, the pinterest searching began, looking for ways to hide those ingredients that are supposed to help with milk supply.  I’ve stayed away from the brewer’s yeast, partly because of the hassle of getting the right thing, and partly because everyone seems to think it tastes awful, but what I do eat in fairly large quantities is oats and flax seeds.  I’m not the biggest fan of morning oatmeal – I’m a savory breakfast person, and so oatmeal just doesn’t do it for me.  I’ve been making chocolate, almond butter “energy balls”, which are fantastic, but take a block of time to prepare, thereby taking up all of the time during one of my son’s naps when I could have actually been eating or showering, or doing any of those other things that simply need to be done in order for life to work.  So, I decided to try to come up with something a little quicker, or at least less involved.  Out came the cupcake pan and the silicone liners, and a few of my pantry staples.  Within minutes, these were in the oven, and 20 minutes after that they were cooling to go into the fridge.  I use the term “cupcake” fairly loosely here, purely because I don’t have another name for them at the moment, but I’ll gladly take suggestions!

To make these I literally took all of the ingredients and threw them in a bowl.  After mixing, I distributed everything into the silicone cases, topped them up with water, and put them in the oven.  Done and done.  So foolproof that even I, with my mommy brain, managed not to screw it up (unless you count accidentally throwing the measuring cup in the trash and then spending 10 minutes looking for it!).  And it’s completely customizable with any ingredients you like.  Can’t eat nuts?  Just leave them out.  Don’t like coconut?  Swap it for something.  Don’t have applesauce?  Switch it for banana, or just leave it out.  You get the idea.  Mine are not particularly sweet because I don’t add any sugar, but you could sweeten them if that’s your thing.  If you come up with other flavor combinations I’d love to hear about them!

 

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1/4 cup each of your fillings
    • chocolate chips
    • coconut
    • dried apricot
    • chopped walnuts
    • anything and everything you like!
  • pinch salt
  • water

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F
  2. Line a 12 hole cupcake pan with silicone cases (or paper cases)
  3. Mix all ingredients together
  4. Distribute between cases
  5. Top up with water – just below the top of the filling, you don’t want it too wet
  6. Bake for 20 minutes
  7. Store in the fridge once cool

Chocolate walnut couronnes

This is not the post I had planned for this week.  I was hoping to get my next baby project posted, but sadly it’s taking more time to finish than I anticipated.  So, instead, I baked.

My husband and I have recently starting binge watching the Great British Bake Off, and it makes me want to bake.  A lot.  I shouldn’t be surprised by this given my affinity for baked goods.  Apparently, at the age of 3, when asked what I wanted for Christmas, I responded with “some cake”, and at the age of 5 or 6 I asked my Mum to teach me to bake without a mixer, in case at some point in my life I didn’t have one and still felt a compulsion to bake.  So what I wanted to bake first was some kind of sweet bread.  I would have loved to start with a traditional Cornish saffron cake, but my husband isn’t a big fan, and he tends to get mad when I bake for people who aren’t him!  So instead, I was planning to make a Croatian povitica.  That is, until I looked at the recipe and saw that the dough would need to be stretched out to 1m in length, and that just isn’t going to happen in my mournfully small kitchen.  So, option 2 was a couronne.  This is a twisted sweet bread named for it’s crown-like shape.  The one on the show was filled with apricots and marzipan, which sounds delicious to me, but my husband wasn’t loving that idea.  I’m not much of a traditionalist with much food – I’m all for changing things up to suit different purposes.  In this vein, I switched out the filling for something closer to that of a povitica, although I’ll say now that I didn’t really follow a recipe so much as look at a list of ingredients and make something up.  I also decided to make 6 small ones instead of 1 large one.

I made a couple of substitutions to the dough itself.  I didn’t have any bread flour, and with a 5 month old I’m not dealing with the hassle of the grocery store for 1 ingredient.  So I used regular all purpose flour instead.  I also didn’t have instant yeast in my pantry, but I did have a jar of active yeast in the fridge, so I used that instead and just converted the quantity.  The rest of the ingredients and instructions for the dough were following Paul Hollywood’s recipe, which you can find here.  OK, one other substitution I should admit to – I made it in my mixer and just finished the kneading by hand.  Tired Mommy arms and all that…

Once the dough was made and rising, I started on the filling.  I creamed 1/4 cup butter with 1/3 cup sugar until pale and, well, creamy.  I then beat in 1 egg yolk, followed by 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa and finally 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts.  The walnuts could have been finer, but I wanted there to be a bit of texture instead of the filling just being paste.

To assemble the couronnes, I basically followed the instructions in the original recipe except that after rolling the dough I cut it into 6.  I spread the filling onto each in a fairly thin layer and rolled them tightly from one of the long sides.  I did find it helpful to pinch the seams closed before cutting the rolls in half lengthwise, and then twisting the pieces around each other.  Once twisted, I curled the ends around to make circles and transferred the couronnes to a baking sheet.  Next time, I’ll probably reduce the width of the initial rectangle so that the 6 pieces aren’t as long and either have them be wider or a little thicker to make the rolls smaller but thicker.

The recipe stated to glaze with apricot jam, but since I didn’t have any, and I’d already separated an egg to put the yolk into the filling, I used the beaten egg white to glaze them.  I did this once they’d been in a 400 F oven for 20 minutes, and then put them back in for another 5.  The final step is the icing, which has to be done once they’ve cooled.  For this I used the icing that I put on my scones when I bake them.  It’s very simple, just powdered sugar, milk and vanilla extract.  The exact quantities aren’t overly critical, it depends on what consistency you’re going for.  All I would suggest is to add the liquid very very gradually – it doesn’t take much to make it too runny.  You can use water instead of milk, and switch the vanilla extract for something else or leave it out altogether if you prefer.  I didn’t want the hassle of cleaning a piping bag for something so small, so I used a snack sized zip top bag with one corner cut off.  Put the icing into the bag, squeeze out the remaining air and seal the top.  Cut one of the bottom corners off (the amount you cut will determine how fine your piping is) and squeeze.  Then just throw it out when you’re done!

OK, they might not win me any baking championships any time soon.  But that’s not going to stop me eating them all before my husband gets home fighting my husband for them when he gets home from work!

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Chocolate Walnut Couronnes

For the dough:

2 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp salt

1 packet instant yeast or 2 1/4 tsp active dried yeast

1/4 cup butter, softened

3 1/2 oz milk

1 egg, lightly beaten

For the filling:

1/4 cup butter

1/3 cup sugar

1 egg yolk

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

For finishing:

1 egg white, lightly beaten

1/4 – 1/2 cup powdered sugar

1-2 drops vanilla extract

1/2 – 1 tsp milk or water

 

To make the dough:

Put the flour into the bowl of a mixer, add the salt to one side and the yeast to the other.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix until a soft dough has formed.  Knead until the dough is soft and smooth.

Put the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover and leave to rise for an hour, or until doubled in size.

Meanwhile, make the filling:

Cream the butter and sugar until pale.  Beat in the egg yolk.  Stir in the cocoa and walnuts.

Then, assemble the couronnes:

Pre-heat the oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.  Roll the dough out into a large rectangle and cut width-wise into 6 even pieces.  Spread the filling on each piece, leaving a gap around the edge.  Roll each piece tightly from the long edge, and then cut in half lengthwise, leaving a small piece attached at one end to make the twisting easier.  Twist the 2 pieces together like a rope and join the ends to form a circle.  Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.  Glaze with the egg white and return to the oven for another 5 minutes.  Once cool, finish with a drizzle of icing.

Pre-baby freezer stocking list and Cornish pasty recipe

As I mentioned when writing my toad in the hole recipe, the best idea I had in my final weeks of pregnancy was to fill my freezer to the brim with pre-made food.  I will start with a disclaimer here – I have a compulsive need to organize things, and there’s almost nothing I love more than a good spreadsheet.  Seriously, it comes right after family, friends, wine and chocolate!  So, armed with my trusty laptop, I spent many, many hours searching the internet for recipes that sounded good, and arranged them all in my mind-saving spreadsheet for easy access.

Now I realize that this doesn’t sound fun to some (OK, let’s try 99% of) people.  And so, what I’d like to do with the first part of this post is to share my own for you all to use as you wish.  The only thing that I have removed from the spreadsheet is the highlighting that I used to keep track of what I’d made and what was still to be done.  It’s a small thing, but I really recommend doing that as you go.  My list was really big, and my mental capacity at the time was teeny tiny!  It’s amazing we manage to get through pregnancy at all, with all of the things our darling unborn children do us along the way!

In it’s full form, this spreadsheet also included many other sheets, including our baby registry list, contact info for various people (in all seriousness, my husband could barely remember my name by the time we got to the hospital, we needed lists!), packing lists, lists of classes we were taking, and a few other things.  If you want a more comprehensive version, let me know and I’ll send it to you.  For now, this is purely my recipe list.  I didn’t actually get everything on this list made, mainly because my apartment contains a somewhat sorry excuse for a freezer, but I have since had everything on the list, and I personally like all of the recipes.  For things that don’t need a recipe, or for recipes that I already had myself, I just listed freezing instructions.  You’ll see when you look at it.  The spreadsheet is freely available for you to download.

Freezer list.

There is something on this list that you may not be overly (or at all) familiar with if you’re not from the UK, and that is Cornish pasties.  This is something that I have been eating since I was a child, because my Mum’s side of the family are all from Cornwall, and it’s one of those things that would always put a smile on my face when my Mum made them for us.  Originally, they were something that the tin miners would have had for lunch, with a savory filling at one end a sweet filling at the other end.  The folded crust made it nice and sturdy to hold, and would be thrown away so that they didn’t have to try to scrub their hands clean in the middle of a mine.  They’re very simple in terms of ingredients, but if you want to make the pastry from scratch, they can be time consuming.  The list does include a link to a recipe from the BBC website for shortcrust pastry if this is a route that you want to take.  I have to admit that I have never been good at making pastry.  Scratch that.  I’m terrible at it.  I have almost no issues with baking cakes, breads, other baked items.  But when it comes to pastry, the only success I’ve ever had is a recipe that uses a food processor and makes a sweet shortcrust pastry for a chocolate ganache pie.  So, being heavily pregnant and easily annoyed by almost anything, I cheated and used pre-made pie crust.  Does it taste as good as when my Mum makes it?  No.  Is it good enough when you’ve barely slept and only have 5 minutes to eat?  Hell yes.  The other ingredients are potato, onion, swede (also called turnip or rutabega, depending on where you are.  Only the Cornish call it turnip though, don’t confuse it with the small white things that the rest of us know as turnips!) and chuck steak.  You don’t even need to pre-cook anything.  We always used plates as templates to cut the pastry – side plates for smaller ones, dinner plates for large ones.  And when I say large, I mean enormous.  A side plate sized one is plenty for most people.

To make the pasties, cut your pastry into circles, and fill one side with a decent heap of diced potato, swede and onion.  Add some steak, also diced, and season with salt and pepper.  Fold the other side over, and use either milk or egg wash to make sure that the edges seal together.  Fold the sealed crust inwards, similar to a calzone, and transfer to a baking sheet.  Poke a hole in the side to let the steam escape, brush with milk or egg wash, and bake at 350 F for around 30 minutes, or until golden brown.  Done.  Personally I think they’re best hot with tomato ketchup, but they work cold too.  If you’re making a batch and freezing them, cook them, let them cool, wrap each one individually in foil and then freeze them all together in a large ziploc bag.  Then you can just pull out as many as you need, unwrap them and reheat from frozen in a 350 F oven for about 30 minutes.  I hope you enjoy the recipe, and if you give them a try please let me know how they turn out!

 

Toad in the hole with onion gravy

Of all of the things that I did during my final weeks of pregnancy, the one that I think was the best use of my time and somewhat limited energy was to stock my freezer with pre-made food.  And when I say stock, I mean really stock.  I had to give up on making a good portion of things that I wanted to make because I had filled every inch of available space (although that has as much to do with the size of my freezer as the amount of food that I made).  Why was this the best thing that I did?  When my son arrived and we had almost no sleep and even less of an idea of what we were doing, we didn’t have to even think about cooking.  And when I only had what seemed like minutes in between feedings, feedings and more feedings, I could grab something to eat that would be ready in seconds.  Between our freezer and my wonderful friends at church bringing us meals, we didn’t cook dinner from scratch for at least a month, and didn’t end up living on take out with the nutritional value of the box that it comes in.

Anyone who knows me knows my obsessive need to plan and organize.  Never has this been a more useful thing for me than with my pre-baby freezer stocking.  I started with a spreadsheet of meal categories (breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinners etc) and filled it with lists of items and links to online recipes where I didn’t have my own.  There were gallon bags filled with meat and vegetables to go into the slow cooker, stuffed breakfast biscuits, meatballs, fruit portioned into bags for smoothies… The list goes on and on!  It worked so well for us, that I now spend a few hours restocking once a month or so, to limit the amount of cooking that we have to do during the week.  Having moved to the US from England, I love to make traditional English food for my husband, so one of the things that we currently have sitting in our freezer is a pre-made toad in the hole.  My husband still has no idea what this actually is – I think he’s worried that I’m planning to feed him actual toads for dinner!  For anyone who isn’t familiar with it, it’s basically sausages baked in a batter, typically served with mashed potatoes and some kind of vegetable.  My version of it contains onions and some extra seasoning, and I also like to serve it with onion gravy.  If it’s part of my freezer stocking plan, I bake it in a disposable foil loaf tin so it doesn’t take up too much space and is just big enough for the 2 of us, but in terms of scaling it up to a bigger size, the sky’s the limit (or rather, your oven’s the limit!).  Here’s what you need to make it for 2:

2-4 sausages (depending on size and appetite); if I was in England I’d be using either Lincolnshire or Cumberland sausages, but seeing as those aren’t so readily available here, I use decent sized bratwurst which are easy to find in my local grocery store.

3 heaped tbsp plain flour

1 large egg

3 oz milk

2 oz water

Salt and pepper

Optional: 1/2 onion,diced, 1/2 tsp mustard powder and 1/2 tsp dried thyme

How to make it:

Heat the oven to 400 F.  Part cook the sausages by baking in a little oil for about 10 minutes, just to get them starting to brown on the outside.  If you’re adding onion, saute it until it’s starting to caramelize, and add to the pan with the sausages.  To make the batter, whisk the dry ingredients in a bowl to break up any clumps.  Make a well in the center.  Lightly beat the egg and add it to the other wet ingredients, then pour into the well and whisk everything together.  Pour the batter over the sausages in the hot pan, and put it back in the oven for about 40 minutes, until risen and golden brown.  If you’re freezing it, let it cool, then cover and put in the freezer.  Really easy, and not a single amphibian to be found!

As I mentioned, this is delicious when served with onion gravy.  Here’s what you’ll need for that:

1 tsp olive (or other) oil

1/2 onion, diced

1/2 tbsp plain flour

3/4 cup chicken, vegetable or beef stock

Salt and pepper

Optional: 1/2 tsp dried thyme, Worcestershire sauce

Heat the oil and saute the onion over a low heat until caramelized (at least 10 minutes).  Add the flour and cook for a couple of minutes, then gradually add the stock, stirring to make sure you don’t get any lumps (other than the onions).  Add the Worcestershire sauce and seasonings, and simmer for around 10 minutes to thicken.  The longer you simmer it for, the richer the flavor gets.  If it gets too thick, add more stock to thin it out.  If it’s too thin, either simmer it for a while longer until it has reduced, or mix a small amount of flour with some stock and add that to the pan (I really do mean small – if you add too much, it’ll turn into a brick).

My apologies for the lack of photos – I’ll make sure I take some the next time I make it!  In the meantime, if you give this a try, I’d love to hear how it turns out.

 

Stuffed acorn squash

So far I’ve mostly posted things I make to keep everyday life with a baby running smoothly.  Today, I’d like to post something a little different that is an absolute necessity for keeping me running smoothly – a healthy dinner recipe!  I made this for my husband last night, and he ate the whole thing without complaining that it was 90% vegetable, or that there was no side of rice with it, and was even considering using the leftover filling to stuff peppers with!  When he actually suggests eating vegetables, that is a successful day in our house, since he typically eats like a 12 year old unless I do the cooking!

So, here’s what you’ll need for this recipe:

1 acorn squash (or several bell peppers if you prefer)

1lb ground beef

1 onion

2-4 cloves garlic, depending on your personal preferences

1 14oz can of chopped tomatoes

8 oz mushrooms (whichever type you prefer)

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 tbsp each ground cumin, ground coriander and dried oregano (or fresh if you have it)

A splash of red wine and balsamic vinegar (optional but adds a nice flavor)

2-3 tbsp chopped pecans (or walnuts, or whatever nut you like)

 

To cook:

Roast the squash whole at 350 F for about 45 minutes or until it’s tender enough to slice in half.  Scoop out the seeds and slice a tiny piece off of the bottom so that it stays level.

Sautee the onions in olive oil or your cooking oil of choice for about 20 minutes over a low heat, until they’ve gone from white… to this lovely caramel color…  I’ll be honest, since the baby was asleep, I used this step as my opportunity to go take a shower – you really do want to cook them for that long.

Turn the heat up to medium and add the ground beef.  Cook until almost brown, then add the garlic and the mushrooms.  Once the meat has fully browned and the mushrooms have softened, add the rest of the ingredients.

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Cover and simmer for as long as you can (ideally at least an hour).  Pile the filling into the squash (depending on the size of your squash, this might actually give you enough to fill 2 of them), top with the pecans and put it back in the oven for about 30 minutes.

 

Eh voila, tasty homemade dinner, and not a processed carb in sight!  Ah, happy happy days!