roasted acorn squash soup

I very nearly destroyed dinner last night.
This happens to me sometimes when I forgot that I put something in the oven and it overcooks. In a big way.
Fortunately, I was cooking squash. And squash are redeemable. I mean, with a name like squash, they almost have to be, right?

They were going to be a side dish, but instead they became the main dish. And it was serendipity all around. —A happy accident. And also delicious. Worthy of sharing.
Enjoy!

ROASTED ACORN SQUASH SOUP

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2 medium-large acorn squash
32oz/1 qt chicken broth
1 15oz can of whole-fat coconut milk
1 tsp onion flakes
1 teaspoon fresh garlic
3/4 teaspoon of salt (moire or less, depending on taste preference)
2 tablespoons clarified butter

In a 400-degree oven roast the squash until the rinds are blackened. About an hour or more. —I simply pierce the rinds with a sharp knife so they can vent while cooking, and place them whole right on the rack (with tinfoil underneath to catch drips). I find they are easier to de-seed post roasting. I’m all about simplifying the process.

When they have finished cooking and the rinds are blackened, remove from the oven, allow to cool, then slice open, and scoop out the seeds. scoop the cooked squash from the blackened rind and set aside.

In a soup pot over med-high heat, melt clarified butter and simmer garlic and onion flakes until cartelized. Add the acorn squash, broth, and can of coconut milk. With an emulsion blender (or in a standard blender) emulsify until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with rosemary, or parmesan, or both!

 

 

cauliflower rice with fresh guac and cucumbers

Lunch is hard.

By lunch I’ve usually exhausted any energy my coffee addiction provided, the kids are clamoring for something super healthy like Kraft MacNCheese, chips, and bread, and all I can think about is eating something that will make the noise stop for just a few minutes. That, or a second to pee by myself.
Ahem.
Lunch is hard.

But sometimes, lunch can be less hard—and this usually happens when you thought to plan ahead, or when whatever you made for dinner last night can ride in on a sliver spoon, reimagined as something new and tasty.

And thusly lunch rode in today. It was quick, easy, whole30 friendly (!) and while it didn’t make any of the clamoring cease, it did give me a little extra energy where coffee failed. Winning. Happy lunching friends!

CAULIFLOWER RICE WITH FRESH GUACAMOLE AND CUCUMBER SLICES

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Cauliflower rice is a staple I try to have on hand all the time. It’s a great vegetarian base for almost any meal and it goes with everything. It’s a little odiferously strong, but the flavor is fantastic and it keeps in the fridge for about three to four days—though my batch rarely lasts that long.

CAULIFLOWER RICE:
1 head of cauliflower
3 tablespoons (or more as needed) Olive or Avocado oil
1 tablespoon Sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon salt (+ additional to taste)

Chop a head of cauliflower into bite-sized pieces, and then in a food processor, pulse into rice-sized bits. I have a 7-cup processor and it takes several batches to get the whole head of cauliflower processed. This is the messy part of the recipe.

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In a large wok or deep skillet, heat olive (or avocado) oil on med heat. You’re not going to fry the cauliflower, you’re going to cook it, so make sure your pan isn’t too hot or it will splatter and burn. (Believe me, I learned this the hard way!) Add the cauliflower to the oil, sprinkle in salt, and mix thoroughly with a spatula. Feel free to taste and adjust salt as desired. Continue stirring occasionally until the rice begins to soften a bit and stick together. It will not be as sticky as actual rice, but it will clump a bit when moved around the pan. You don’t want it too soft or mushy (like a paste) so be careful not to overcook.

Once cooked through, remove the pan from heat and set aside. For this recipe, the rice can be served either hot or cold, your choice.

GUACAMOLE:
2 ripe avocados
3 tablespoons chunky salsa
1 teaspoon diced garlic
1 teaspoon diced onion
1 teaspoon lemon juice

In a food processor, pulse the ingredients until combined but not soupy. You’ll want to be able to tell what the ingredients were, before they were combined. So, kinda chunky. (Good foodie terms there, I know).

In a bowl, spoon cauliflower rice (hot or cold) and top generously with fresh guac. Throw on handful of fresh cucumber slices (the baby ones are my fav!) for a nice fresh crunch and call it good. Good lunch.
Enjoy!

 

 

 

cucumbers and hummus

I need a shirt that says, “Sorry for what I ate when I was tired.”
Man, I make the worst food choices when I’m exhausted. Anyone else?

On that note, it seemed time for a post on snacks. A series of them actually. Healthy snacks. Because frankly, I’m tired all the time and I could use some snacking help. So let’s get started with this one. One of my top favs.

CUCUMBERS AND HUMMUS

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Seedless, or French cucumbers as they are also called, aren’t seedless actually, but their seeds are softer and smaller than traditional cucumbers. This makes them more palatable to kids too, so tuck that away for snacking hour!
Hummus is one of the easiest sauces/dips/garnishes I know how to make. And also the most versatile. You can throw just about any herb or spice in the mix to change up the flavor, but I think I like it best with the traditional shot of lemon juice and garlic.

Here’s what you’ll need to whirl up a batch of traditional hummus

1 15 oz can of Garbanzo beans/Chickpeas in water, drained.
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh garlic
1 teaspoon tahini (sesame paste) —this last one is optional and I find that the flavor doesn’t change a great deal if it is omitted. It’s not a typical pantry staple, so no worries if you don’t have it on hand.

Toss all the ingredients in a food processor or blender, whirl on high until smooth. scrape down sides and whirl again.
Serve with cut up veggies of any kind or pretzels, pita bread, or other firm cracker.

Enjoy!

spicy coconut chicken soup

In the Midwest, we are really good at winter. We’ve got that department mastered like it’s our JOB. I’d much rather be known for summer, but that’s what places like Florida and California and Georgia are good at. Someone’s got to do winter. *sigh*
Also, in the midwest, we are good at thick creamy soups. Because we are trying to stay warm. Anything with cream, or milk, or butter, or cream-of-anything additions to rice and chicken and broccoli and potatoes . . . Yah. You get the idea. Hey, it was -15 for the past week where I live (-25 and lower with wind chills). I’ve got cold on the brain. And also thick creamy soup.

But what happens when you crave that sort of thing but you’re all, “Oh shoot. Whole 30. No dairy . . .”?

Well, then you turn to the glorious creamy sweetness that is coconut milk. No lie, this stuff really is amazing. Chilled in the fridge overnight it separates and all the heavy vegetarian fat rises to the top and thickens. You can scoop it out with a spoon and drop it in your coffee. Or if you whip it (like with a hand-mixer) the consistency changes to something reminiscent of whipped cream. Great for topping pumpkin pie, brownies, or yaknow, coffee. And in this case, it provides an exotic note to an otherwise ordinary soup. Paired with the heat of some Sriracha sauce it’s the perfect blend of east and west—Midwest, in this case. Midwest on Whole30. In winter. Burrrrrr.
Enjoy!

SPICY COCONUT CHICKEN SOUP

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1 quart chicken stock
1 tablespoon clarified butter
¼ cup diced onion
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup carrots, diced
½ cup Celery, diced
2 cups yellow summer squash, cut in rounds
2 cups of arugula
bean thread noodles
1  13.5 oz can of coconut milk
Sriracha sauce

In a stockpot, over medium high heat, melt clarified butter and cook onions and celery until caramelized. Add chicken stock and heat until boiling. Carrots, diced, can be added next. Turn down the heat and scoop the coconut milk/cream into the broth and whisk until well incorporated. The broth will have a sweet-savory flavor at this point. How much sriracha you add is totally dependent upon preference. I like enough heat to warm my soul. —Not burning, but I want my mouth to remember what it feels like to be warm during a mid January freeze in northern Minnesota.

The noodles can be dropped into the soup and the heat raised again to boiling. Cook them through—they’ll be translucent and soft, but shouldn’t be chewy. Bean thread noodles are my new fav. Their texture is unique and a nice alternatives to egg noddles or a standard pasta.

Lastly, add the squash and arugula as these two soften quickly.

Serve in hot steaming bowls on a cold day.

coconut-cream sweet potatoes and sausage with spinach pesto

I gave this dish a skeptical eye the first time I made it. It was one of those, “Well, the flavors all work together, technically” situations.  Sweet potatoes, salty meat, cool and refreshing pesto. Match made in . . . I don’t know . . . Candyland?
But you guys. You. Guys.
This tastes so much more amazing than I ever planed.
For real. I need to figure out a better presentation, perhaps. Something molded or towering. Because the pile-on-a-plate just doesn’t do this thing justice.

“What are you calling this?” my husband asked, mowing down his second helping.
“Don’t know,” I said. He nodded.
“Maybe go with something more descriptive than that?”
“Suggestions?”
“Candy.” He said. And he heaped another plate.
And there you go.
Enjoy!

COCONUT-CREAM SWEET POTATOES AND SAUSAGE WITH SPINICH PESTO

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*Note: This is another one of those two-for-one recipes. I’ve linked the pesto recipe here.

2 large sweet potatoes
¼ coconut cream
a dash of salt
1 lb mild Italian sausage
4 tablespoons lemon-balsamic spinach pesto

Scrub 2 sweet potatoes and pierce skin with a sharp knife, allowing them to breathe while baking (so much better than exploding inside your oven). Place potatoes directly on the rack of a 400-degree preheated oven and bake for 40-45 minutes. Make sure the burner is lined with foil as the potatoes will drip while baking.

In a flat bottom pan, cook 1 pound of mild Italian sausage until browned and crumbly. Drain and set aside.

Mix up a batch of lemon-balsamic spinach pesto.

When the potatoes are finished baking, allow them to cool, and then slice lengthwise and scoop out the baked interiors into a mixing bowl. Dispose of the peels. Add coconut cream and a dash of salt to the potatoes, and then with a hand mixer, blend until will incorporated and smooth.

Plate up in layers—potatoes on the bottom with Italian sausage spooned generously over top, and finished with the pesto.

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coconut crusted panfish

One of the difficult aspects of trying to eat clean, is finding food that has flown under commercially grown/raised/harvested radar. It’s difficult to come by. For example: Raw milk. It’s amazing stuff, but in my state, acquiring it has to be a transaction between producer and consumer exclusively. Same with eggs from hens that have not been treated with antibiotics (which is part of the reason I keep my own!) Know and befriend your local farmers! Meat is less difficult to find but more expensive. Again—make friends with all your local producers and farmers.

If you live in a rural area, hunters and fishermen can also be fantastic suppliers of meat and fish (harvested within seasonal limits and legal parameters of course—I shouldn’t even have to say that, but I don’t want anything taken out of context here). When it comes to wild game, you are guaranteed meat and fish that are free of antibiotics and growth hormones.

Thinking about where our food comes from is an excellent practice in conservation, environmental awareness, stewardship, and mindfulness. We take care of the things that hold value, and until we recognize the work that goes into feeding our bodies, we will not value it. For this same reason we teach our children/friends/spouses to cook. There is value in the art of nourishing ourselves and others.

I have a lot of hunting and fishing friends. One of them recently asked if I was interested in some Crappie—a small pan fish that is both extremely tasty and prolific in our local lakes. He’d caught his limit ice fishing and had some to share. Did I want some fillets?
Did I ever!
This recipe came out of his provision.
The idea of hunting and fishing can be a touchy topic for some, and I’ll not get into the ethical arguments here. Suffice it to say I am thankful for the work so many men and women do, on so many fronts, to put food on tables across the country, whether by farming, gardening, hunting, or fishing.
Enjoy!

COCONUT CRUSTED PANFISH

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A dozen fillets or more, depending on your crowd.
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups of unsweetened coconut flakes
4 eggs
½- ¾  cup olive oil
Cast Iron pan (not absolutely necessary, but your fish will definitely fry better if you use a cast iron pan rather than a standard or coated sauté pan)

Begin by making sure the fish have been cleaned well—meaning the bones have all been removed. Nothing is worse than swallowing a small sharp bone while you’re trying to enjoy dinner! Run your fingers along the middle of the fillets and if you feel any small bones remaining in the meat, use a meat scissors and simply trim that section of meat off the fillet. The shape of the fillets will be very un-even and reminiscent of fish sticks at times more than a standard fillet. No worries. The taste negates their appearance entirely.

In a shallow dish (a pile plate works great!) mix the coconut flakes and 1 teaspoon of salt together.

Then in a mixing bowl, mix up the eggs and the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt until frothy.

In a cast iron pan, over high/med-high heat, warm olive oil until a small drip of egg bubbles and fries.

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Immersing each fish fillet in the egg, make sure it is well coated, remove and allow to drip off the excess egg briefly and then drop it into the coconut flakes. Cover and pat until the flakes stick to the entire surface of the fish. Carefully place it in the fry pan and repeat until the pan is full of fillets. Brown for about 1-2 minutes and then turn and brown the other side, turning each fillet over in the order it was placed in the pan so each one is cooked approximately the same amount of time. Place the fillets on paper toweling to absorb any excess oil and serve hot.