Archive | October, 2013

Acorn Squash Stuffed Shells

29 Oct

I made this one because Nick and I were supposed to have guests over for dinner, but they cancelled last minute. It was really sad not to see our friends, but it was okay because we ended up eating a majority of what we made and hoarding the rest. It was my first time making stuffed shells, and I think they turned out pretty darn good. I was worried that they would dry out but it all worked out just fiiiine.

I actually made two types of shells in case someone didn’t like a certain type. It turns out Nick really hates ricotta so he fought eating the half that had cheese, but he eventually came around to the dark side and enjoyed it (or at least he pretended to!).

What I used:
½ box jumbo shells
½ roasted acorn squash, blended
¼ cup sour cream
½ cup ricotta cheese
10 oz chopped frozen spinach, thawed and dried
½ tsp nutmeg
1 cup vegetable broth
Salt, pepper
½ stick butter
3 tablespoons brown sugar

I began by preheating my oven to 350. I boiled the shells for however long it said to on the box. When it was time to drain them, I ran really cold water over them to be sure they didn’t overcook and become soft. I let them sit in a bowl of cold water until I was ready to use them.

IMG_9518

I mixed the ricotta, spinach, a dash of salt and a dash of pepper until it was fully blended.

I did the same with the blended squash, sour cream, and nutmeg. In a small saucepan, I combined the ½ stick of butter with the brown sugar over a low heat.

I filled each shell with about two tablespoons of either filling and put into a 9×13 pan. Once all of the shells were in there, I poured the cup of veggie broth over just to add moisture. I poured the brown sugar sauce over the top of each shell. I covered the pan with foil and cooked for about 25 minutes.

20131002_200743

I served with just an easy chicken breast. They were delicious!

Advertisements

Easy Paella

28 Oct

I love love paella. I can clearly remember the first time I had authentic paella in Spain… it was wonderful. My parents came up and I decided to make it for a dinner. It was harder than I thought, mostly because I was feeding picky people. My Dad is questionably allergic to lobster, Nick doesn’t like mussles or scallops… I had to make some serious adjustments to how I was going to make it.

This was also supposed to be a fairly easy, low-key dish, so I omitted some of the “for show” ingredients (the clams and mussles, giant shrimp etc). I got the safflower from a spice shop in Cambridge. It’s comparable to saffron (which I just cannot bring myself to purchase).

What I used:
½ cup olive oil
½ lb frozen cocktail shrimp, thawed with tails and shells removed
3 cups mixed seafood: squid, octopus, crabmeat (and I snuck some mussles in).
1 ½ lb chicken thighs
3 hot italian sausages
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
½ large sweet onion
½ green pepper, diced
½ red pepper, diced
½ yellow pepper, diced
½ orange pepper, diced
1 cup frozen peas
3 garlic cloves, diced
3 cups long grain rice
6 cups water
1 tbsp safflower threads
Dash red pepper flakes
Dash Salt, Pepper
1 lemon, cut into wedges
½ bunch parsley

I began by grabbing literally the biggest frying pan I could find, and I cooked the sausages with a little bit of olive oil on medium. Once they were cooked all the way through, I pulled them out and let them cool. After that, I heated the rest of the oil to medium and cooked the chicken thighs until they were browning on both sides. I pulled them out and set aside. In the leftover oil, I added the onion and garlic and sauteed until the onion was translucent. I added the peppers and let them soften, which only took a few minutes. I added my mixed seafood (not the shrimp) at this point, and let it heat through.

IMG_9862

I stirred in salt, red pepper flakes, pepper, safflower, can of tomatoes, peas, rice and water. I added the chicken thighs back in and let cook for about 20 minutes. I cut the sausage into pieces, and added back into the mix.

IMG_9863

I had to make sure that I kept stirring during those 20 minutes because the rice was starting to stick to the bottom of the pan. I pulled the chicken thigh bones out (the meat should fall right off), added the cocktail shrimp, added in the parsley, and let simmer for another 10 minutes on low to reduce some of the liquid that was left.

IMG_9864

I served with lemon wedges while we watched the Red Sox – it was hard to tell if it was good because people were so fixated on the game, but no one complained!

IMG_9865

Drunk BBQ Sauce

24 Oct

I’ve used this recipe a couple different times with a couple different beers. I made it with Sam Adams’ Black Lager for our housewarming party, and I made it with Guinness on move-in day (pt. 2). The Guinness was a sweeter sauce while the Lager was a spicier one, but they were both insanely good. We made them originally to go on pulled pork, but I have been using it in place of my regular BBQ sauce at home.

I find that I change the proportions based on the beer I use, and this one is measured using a whole 12 oz bottle. This made more than enough for one big crock pot of pulled pork.

I don’t have any pictures of this one just yet, but I’ll come back and update when I do.

What I used
2 tbsp butter
2 onions, chopped
~7 garlic cloves, chopped
¾ cup molasses
¾ cup white vinegar
2 cup brown sugar
1.5 tsp cayenne (the second time I used an actual cayenne pepper, both were good)
12 oz can of tomato paste
2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground black pepper
bottle of beer – 12 oz

I started by melting the butter in the bottom of a big sauce pan (~3 quart) over a medium heat. I added the garlic, onion, and cayenne pepper, and sauteed until the onion started to become caramelized.

I added the molasses, beer, vinegar, sugar, salt, and black pepper next. I brought it up to a boil, and then turned down the heat so it was on medium for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Then I added the tomato paste and set to low. I simmered for another 30 minutes, and continued to stir every once in a while. Once that 30 was up, I took off the heat and let cool – well, tried to. The best thing to do is to bring it to room temperature and then blend it, but we are far too impatient. Instead, Nick burned his hands trying to blend hot hot BBQ sauce. I figure someday we’ll learn our lessons, but not any time soon.

Roasted Acorn Squash

23 Oct

Alright, this is one that I was really excited about. I’ve made an effort to buy one thing a week at Haymarket that I’ve never used before, and this week it was an acorn squash. I wanted a quick side that wasn’t A) bread, B) rice, or C) so bad for you that I wouldn’t be able to justify drinking heavily with dinner. Well, I got A + B, but I definitely had to rethink beer #3. It’s not super bad for you, but it just tastes so sinful.

What I used:
1 acorn squash
1 Tbsp butter, quartered
2 tbsp brown sugar
Literally the sharpest knife I could find (I’m not kidding)

Firstly, I preheated the oven to about 400.
I started by (attempting) to cut the squash in half (so I had a left and right, not top and bottom). I used (tried) two knives and eventually just called Nick in to do it. I scraped out the seeds and gross stuff that’s on the inside and threw it in the trash.

IMG_9501

Then came the gross stuff. I took the quartered piece of butter and rubbed it all over the flesh (not skin) of the squash. I did the best I could to get it even, but butter is really gross so I gave up pretty quickly. I put the other quarter tbsp of butter in the pocket/well, and then I did the same for the other half. I put a tablespoon of brown sugar in the pocket of both sides, and put in the oven for about 45 minutes (or until I couldn’t stand the smell anymore). I took it out and sliced it (about 1” slices), and served it just like that. The flesh was soft all the way through, but we trashed the skin.

IMG_9911

I did intentionally save ½ for dinner the next night, which was harder to do than I thought. We had to stop ourselves after getting seconds so I’d have enough left over for acorn squash round 2. I think that my first attempt at making acorn squash was a success!

The Picked Pickled Peppers

20 Oct

We have this affinity for buying peppers that end up being either A) far too hot for human consumption or B) in such a vast quantity that actually eating them before they go bad would make even the biggest pepper fan throw up. One particular day I went to Haymarket and needed roughly 1 tsp of habenero. I was buying a bunch of stuff from one stall and saw a huge box of the nasty little buggers. I asked if he wouldn’t mind just throwing one in to my bag, and he laughed. He asked if I knew that they were spicy, I said that I was feeling brave. He ended up donning a new pair of gloves and giving me about 20 of them and about 10 long hots, for free. He said that he gets about one person a week that wants the goods and he just trashes the rest, so he might as well donate it to a worthy cause (aka my belly).

Anyway, those things are hot. I used them for whatever recipe I had originally planned, but then I just needed to get rid of them. It was to the point that every time I opened the fridge my nose burned from the smell. I figured I’d take a whack at pickling so that I could save them for another use without having to smell them every day.

I highly recommend using the mason jars with a two part lid (picture) because I think it just preserves better. Don’t plan on ever using them for anything but peppers again, though! I like to make combinations – use different quantities of each pepper in each! They’ll be delicious no matter what.

IMG_9586-001

What I used:
6 cups white vinegar
2 cups water
1 onion, minced
1 tsp pickling salt (or just regular salt)
1 tsp dill
1 tsp parsley
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp garlic powder
Peppers, cut into rings
Clean mason jars
Large pasta pot with water, enough to submerge the jars.

The amount of vinegar I use is sliding. I start by cutting up my peppers, and seeing how many mason jars I fill with them. If I find that I fill 2 – 2 cup mason jars, I’ll use 4 cups of vinegar and 1 ⅓ cups of water. That way I can be sure I’ll have enough liquid to fill without wasting it.

IMG_9581

Once I have the peppers (and their seeds) ready in the jars, I start with the liquid. I put the onion, salt, herbs, garlic, water, and vinegar into a small pot. I cover and turn on high. Once it starts to boil, I turn to low and simmer for about 10 minutes. In that time, I turn the large pot of water on high. When the 10 minutes is up, I pour the hot liquid into the jar and fill to within a ½ inch of the top. I tap on the counter to remove whatever air bubbles might be present, and put the top on.

IMG_9584-001

Once the large pasta pot is boiling, I submerge my newly filled (and tightly sealed) jars. I leave them in there for about 10 minutes. Take out and cool, and you’re all done!

IMG_9593-001

I’ve found that the peppers are better after they sit for a few months… it takes patience but it is so worth it. They can sit in the pantry for a long time, but once you’ve opened the jar it is definitely necessary to refrigerate them. I’ve used them in BBQ sauce, salsas, and anything else that needs a little kick.

IMG_9905

Granola, round 2

17 Oct

It took a while,  but we finally managed to run out of granola… that discovery was quickly followed by “so, when can we make more? Today? Right now???”

Well, I get sick of getting pestered pretty quick (and I wanted more granola), so I made another batch. I used the same recipe as before (Easy-Peasy Granola) except for two changes: instead of using pistachios I used sliced almonds and instead of banana chips I used 1/2 cup raisins and a 1/2 cup crasins.

image

We ate about a handful each when it came out of the oven and it tasted pretty darn good.

Apple Butter

15 Oct

A few weeks ago we went apple picking and we were left with a couple not-so-pretty apples. I’m not going to let perfectly good apples go to waste, so I set up the crock-put to make apple butter today. All of the work happens at the beginning, but the effort pays off in the end. I use this stuff on toast and crackers with cheese… I’m sure it has a thousand other uses but I always finish it too quickly to figure that out.

I liked using red apples for this (because I don’t like green ones), but I think that any apple that is on the sweeter side will suffice.

What I used:
2 pounds (about 5 large-ish) peeled apples, cored and chopped finely
1 cup white sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
dash salt

IMG_9595-001

I put all of the ingredients in a crockpot, stirred, and left it on high for an hour. After the hour I turned it on low for about 10 hours, stirring every once in a while. Once that time was up, I turned back on high, took the lid off, and left for an hour whisking every 15 minutes or so. I spooned into jars and let cool.

IMG_9598-001

It was sort of the consistency of applesauce but tasted delicious! Will definitely make again whenever I have the chance (and the apples).

IMG_9602-001