Changed Opinion: Squash!

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Week Four: Memories and Traditions

The astute among you might remember that I started this month saying I wasn’t going to follow the daily prompts. If you’ve been reading regularly, though, you’ll notice that the past few days I’ve followed them faithfully. I blame the Thanksgiving holiday; I was in Rhode Island with my family and wasn’t up to anything more involved than answering the daily questions. It’s this way every year: I start off with a few posts pre-scheduled, a few recipes ready to go, and then I wing it the rest of the time, often developing a recipe a couple days in advance. And then the end of the month comes and I get busy with something else, and the recipes fall by the wayside. Ah well. I’ve still had fun answering these questions!

And today’s prompt requires some fun introspection and reflection: “Changed Opinion – Was there a food you used to hate, and now don’t?” This one is pretty simple, and I’ve actually addressed it this month. I never cared for squash (of any type!) or sweet potatoes in my childhood and early adulthood! Yet today I consider squash and sweet potatoes true staples in my diet. What do they have in common? I think it’s the texture (mushy, occasionally stringy) and the flavor (sweet, when you might expect savory) that initially turned me off, but I’m glad I’ve changed my tune (mostly through exposure!).

Creamy vegan butternut squash gratin // govegga.com

In fact, earlier this month, I shared both a squash recipe (above) and a sweet potato recipe! And if you search the tags on my site, I’ve actually blogged quite frequently about both ingredients. From risotto to stew (below) to pizza sauce, both ingredients are endlessly versatile in my kitchen. What’s your favorite way to use them?

Sweet Potato & Red Lentil Soup

Creamy Vegan Butternut Squash Gratin

VeganMoFo 2016 graphic

Week Four: Memories and Traditions

Memories and traditions! An appropriate theme this week. Today I bring you a recipe that’s not quite a tradition, but does hearken back to a dish my family served pretty frequently at holidays: scalloped potatoes. But this version features squash instead of potatoes, and a creamy cashew-based sauce instead of cheese.

Sometimes I think that squash varieties don’t quite match their names. With gorgeous, ethereal names like butternut, delicata, and pattypan, you expect something light and, well, delicate. Instead, you get an oddly thick, bulbous, often warty fruit that is decidedly not delicate. But it’s what’s inside that counts, and squashes lend themselves so well to dozens of applications.

Creamy vegan butternut squash gratin // govegga.com

This savory butternut squash recipe would not be out of place doubled and served as a side for Thanksgiving dinner. Roasting squash brings out its inherent sweetness, and seasonal herbs (sage, thyme) add a complementary savory note. A beautifully simple yet complexly flavorful cashew cream sauce elevates the dish, and a sprinkling of toasted panko adds just a little crunch. Thanks to the coconut milk and cashews in the sauce, this dish is surprisingly filling and nutrient-rich; you might be surprised that you’re full after a small helping! Eat straight out of the oven for optimal deliciousness.

Creamy Butternut Squash Gratin

Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side dish

For the squash

1 butternut squash
5-7 fresh sage leaves, rolled and sliced into ribbons
2 tsp fresh thyme
1/2 tsp salt
fresh black pepper
1.5 – 2 T olive oil (start with less and add more if needed for a larger squash)
2-3 T panko

For the cashew cream sauce

1/2 cup whole raw cashews, either soaked for 6 hours ahead of time or boiled for 15 minutes
1/3 cup full-fat coconut milk
1 large clove garlic
2 T nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp salt (or more, to taste)

Method

Preheat the oven to 400˚F.

Using a sharp knife, cut each end off the squash, then cut it half both vertically and horizontally. Stand each piece on end and use your knife to cut off the peel, then scoop out the seeds with a fork. Slice the squash into half-moon shapes about 3/4″ thick.

Combine the olive oil, sliced sage, thyme, salt, and a few grinds of black pepper to a large mixing bowl, then add the squash slices. Stir to coat evenly, then add the squash to a 9 x 13″ glass casserole dish.

Bake for 20 minutes while you prepare the cream sauce.

Add all ingredients to a high-speed blender or food processor and blend/process until you have a smooth, creamy sauce. It will be fairly thin — that’s okay. Taste and adjust for salt. Set cream aside while the squash bakes.

At the 20 minutes mark, use a fork to check whether the squash is done. You want it just about tender. Remove from the oven and pour the sauce over the squash; aim to drizzle it and don’t worry about coating each piece.

Return the dish to the oven and bake for another 5 minutes until the sauce thickens and starts to bubble. Remove it from the oven and sprinkle the panko on top; you want a nice layer. Broil the casserole for 2-3 minutes and remove just as the panko begins to turn golden brown.

Let sit for about 3 minutes, then serve.

 

Nutty Quinoa-Stuffed Delicata Squash

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On the drive home from work this evening, S asked me what I was planning to make for the last day of Vegan MoFo.

“Something with that Delicata squash that’s been sitting around for a week,” I said. “Maybe stuffed squash. Any ideas?”

He barely had to think about the question before answering.

“Nuts! And dried cranberries!”

Nuts and dried cranberries it is. For the last day of September, I put together a dinner that’s pretty to look at and fun to eat. Quinoa gets an autumnal makeover as the filling for the melt-in-your-mouth Delicata squash, and the spice combo evokes all the best fall flavors. A hint of cinnamon and maple syrup adds a touch of sweetness, and the toasted nuts provide a little crunch. The filling would make an excellent gluten-free Thanksgiving stuffing alternative on its own! As written, though, this recipe is a surprisingly satisfying and filling dinner.

Nutty Quinoa-Stuffed Delicata Squash

Nutty Quinoa-Stuffed Delicata Squash
Serves two

  • 1/2-1 tablespoon Earth Balance
  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup celery, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • A couple grinds of fresh pepper
  • Dash cinnamon
  • 1/2 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted nuts (I used a mix of hazelnuts and walnuts)
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened dried cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1 Delicata squash, split lengthwise, with the seeds and stringy bits scooped out
  • A little extra Earth Balance or coconut oil

Preheat the oven to 425˚ and fill an 8″ x 8″ (or 9″ x 9″, depending on the size of your squash) baking pan with a thin layer of water.

Melt the Earth Balance in a small pan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and celery and cook for about 5 minutes until they start to soften. Add the spices and maple syrup and stir so that the onion and celery are coated. Cook for another 3 minutes or so, then remove from heat.

In a large bowl, mix together the quinoa, toasted nuts, dried cranberries, and the onion and celery mixture. Scoop into the cored Delicata squash and pack tightly. The filling can come up over the edge a little bit, but not too far. You’ll have extra, but that’s okay. Dot the filling with a little coconut oil or Earth Balance. Place the squash halves in the prepared pan, add the remaining filling to a small baking dish, and place on the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 30 minutes or until the Delicata squash is browned on top and is pierced easily with a fork. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes before eating. Drizzle with a little extra maple syrup if you’re feeling indulgent!

Nutty Quinoa-Stuffed Delicata Squash

Besides being my favorite squash for its ease of preparation (you can eat the skin, so no need to remove it!) and its creamy texture, Delicata is rich in vitamin A and vitamin C. Quinoa, of course, is a phenomenally healthy little seed, and it’s really what gives this dish its nutritional punch. One serving (one filled half squash) provides 24 grams of protein, 41% of your RDV of iron, and 11% of your RDV of calcium. That’s a pretty darn strong finish to my “Where do you get your protein?!” month, wouldn’t you say?

And what a month it’s been! I’ve really enjoyed myself. Sure, I had a few lazy days, but overall I’m proud of the recipes I created and the consistency with which I was able to put them together. And, for the first time in a while, I’m feeling inspired to keep creating recipes and to continue blogging. Hold me to it if I don’t!

And with that, I bid this year’s Vegan Month of Food a truly fond farewell.

What’s your favorite squash? If you participated in Vegan MoFo, how did it go?

Simplicity Sunday: Roasted Delicata Squash Circles

Orange rectangular banner that says "Vegan MoFo" and "Vegan Month of Food 2011."

Squash and I have never had a perfectly amiable relationship. My child-self didn’t enjoy eating sweet foods for meals that should feature savory items, and I also had  problems with squash’s stringy, squishy texture. Throughout the years I’ve grown much fonder of squash, and I’ve enjoyed trying the many varieties that exist. But, until this week, I’d never tried delicata squash. What a shame, too, because one taste convinced me that it’s easily one of the most delicious and easy to prepare squashes I’ve encountered.

A plate with a stack of roasted squash slices, cut widthwise and sprinkled with cinnamon.

Slice circle.

I’d purchased a delicata squash just days before Kittee serendipitously posted about delicata squash circles, a ridiculously easy way to prepare this squash. I tossed my hollowed-out circles with melted coconut oil, sweet curry powder, salt, and a generous teaspoon of brown sugar. After 20 minutes of roasting, I had a stack of sweet, delicious circles waiting to find their way into my hungry mouth.

Close-up of the squash circles.

Ready for your close-up?

Oh my goodness. These were so sweet and melt-in-your-mouth delicious, with just a hint of curry flavor complementing the caramelized brown sugar. Kittee wasn’t kidding when she talked about popping these like Pez; I couldn’t believe how tasty they were. And the best part? You can eat the skins (assuming your squash is organic, of course)! And you can roast the seeds for a quick, healthy snack. I tossed mine in the leftover coconut oil-curry mixture, and they’re really tasty.

Another close-up.

Stacked.

Needless to say, delicata squash has now gained a permanent place in my dinner rotation. I’m so glad I tried one!

What’s your favorite variety of squash? How do you prepare delicata squash?

Cinnamon & Spice Squash Stew (+ bibliophilia!)

In case you didn’t know, I am a bibliophile. I do have a B.A. in English, after all. Nothin’ (except maybe a strong caffeinated beverage) gets my heart a-racin’ like a big stack of books. I’m like a kid in Willy Wonka’s factory in a library or bookstore… or anywhere with well-stocked bookshelves, really. However, I think that my favorite book-y locale is a good ol’ fashioned used book sale. You know the type, the Friends-of-Such-and-Such-Library-Quarterly-Book-Sale type deal where you exchange a few crumpled dollar bills for a towering stack of books. I stumbled across one such sale last month and exercised an extreme amount of self-control, only buying a few books and a couple of old maps and box of stationery (for $1!!!). But since then, I’ve had a hunger – a desire, a craving! – to waste time browsing the stacks, to pile a basket high with cheap, well-loved tomes, and to generally satiate my bibliophilic urge.

Today I finally got to do just that, at another used book sale held by the same organization. Oh, it was heaven. I spent $6.25 and came away with a stash of language books (Hebrew! Italian! German! French!), more maps, more stationery, and novels. Lots and lots of novels.

Oh, rapture!

Doesn’t that just make your heart happy? Mine is singing with joy. Most of those cost just a quarter. Isn’t that ridiculous? A quarter! I was particularly pleased with the Canterbury Tales, because I have a rather embarrassing Chaucer collection and I always like adding to it with another version of the Tales. This is a prose version, and I don’t think I have one of those yet! So exciting. That bibliophilic urge? I don’t think it’s satiated so much as kindled! Ah well.

I also managed to snag a few old copies of Vegetarian Times magazine. As I perused the October 2008 edition, a recipe for the charmingly-titled “Spicy Fall Stew Baked in a Pumpkin” caught my eye, and I decided to channel that idea and create something similar for my own dinner – Cinnamon & Spice Squash Stew.

Squashlicious!

My stew shares barely anything in common with its VT cousin, other than the fact that it is baked in a winter squash. It’s a mish-mash meal, comprised mostly of CSA veggies and some Black Japonica rice my parents brought when they visited this summer. It’s also a hearty, warming dish full of autumnal veggies, and I washed it down with a cold glass of apple cider. It seems a little silly to provide a recipe for something so full of random ingredients, but I’ll do it anyway – just for posterity.

Cinnamon & Spice Squash Stew
Ingredients
1 acorn squash
1/2 cup uncooked Black Japonica rice
3/4 cup cherry tomatoes*
3/4 cup chickpeas
Small bunch of leeks, chopped into small rings
1 clove garlic, diced
Small pat Earth Balance
Generous sprinkle cinnamon
Dash sage
Dash thyme
Dash crushed red pepper
Salt & pepper to taste
Toasted walnuts (optional, but delicious!)

Cook rice according to the directions on the package. While it’s cooking, chop up the veggies. Melt the EB and then sauté the garlic and leeks until soft. Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, and spices and let simmer. Preheat the oven to 425 or so. Meanwhile, slice the top off the acorn squash and remove the seeds and stringy bits. Place the squash into a pan filled with a little water (you might need to chop a bit off the bottom of the squash so it’ll stay upright in the pan). When the rice is done, combine it with the tomato-chickpea mixture and spoon it into the squash. Place the sliced-off top back onto the squash, put it into the oven, and roast it for 45 minutes or until the it’s soft and tender inside. Remove from oven, top with toasted walnuts, and enjoy! You can eat it straight from the squash or spoon it – along with the squash! – into bowls.

*I used a handful of frozen cherry tomatoes – when my parents visited, they gave me a huuuge basket of tomatoes from their garden. So I threw a bunch of them (3-4 lbs, maybe!) in a freezer bag, and now I just pop ’em into recipes as needed! Works like a charm.

Do you write down random recipes you create on the fly? How about book sales – are you into them?

Swappin’ and Eatin’, ‘cos That’s How I Do

Hello, all! Hope your weekends are going well – mine has been really excellent. Yesterday I had the pleasure of receiving a package as part of the vegan care package swap that Lindsay organized. Lindsay paired me with the wonderful Lisa, who blogs over at Vegan Cookbook Critic. If you’re unfamiliar with Lisa’s blog, you really ought to hightail it over there and check out all the delicious, mouth-watering, and mostly raw recipes she creates and so kindly shares.

I had a great time scouring Madison for local goods to send to Lisa, and I was absolutely thrilled to receive her package! Check out the loot:

To the swapper go the spoils.

I’m spoiled, I know. Here’s what Lisa sent:

  • Three boxes of vegan cookies – Double Chocolate, Ginger Snappers, and Momints (chocolate-mint, obviously!)
  • A handful of delicious maple hard candies that I might’ve devoured already, because I’m a maple fiend
  • A package of some gorgeous pink rice
  • A package of vegan muffin mix
  • A little packet of hemp seeds
  • A container of berbere spice (!)
  • A sweet little “eat cake not carcass” pin
  • A packet of Artisana’s Cashini Butter
  • A People Towel!

Seriously, this is an amazing box full o’ goodies. I love everything! I’d never heard of People Towels, but goodness gracious – what a wonderful idea! Small, personal, quick-drying hand towels you can throw in your purse so that you don’t have to waste paper every time you use a public restroom. Genius! After visiting their website and learning that a couple of stores in Madison sell the towels, I now have an idea for some Christmas presents for friends & family. :)

Will do.

Lisa – thank you so much! You’re an A+ swapper in my book.

Although it was tempting to eat nothing but those cookies for dinner tonight, I opted for something easy – if not quick – instead. Check it – roasted acorn squash and Averie’s Sesame Maple Ginger Tofu.

Cross-hatched tofu?

I know my plate has a distinct lack of greenery, but I have a moratorium on grocery shopping at the moment – it’s CSA day on Wednesday, so right now I’m just using up crisper drawer stragglers. This was still a really filling dinner – the tofu was yummy and sweet, and I topped the acorn squash with a little bit of coconut oil and garam masala and it was heavenly. Look, Ma – I’m slowly but surely overcoming my squash aversion AND my dislike of mixing the savory and the sweet!

What was the best part of your weekend?