zucchini spag-001

Zucchini Spaghetti

This is a fun and healthy way to use all that zucchini or other summer squash. Use a spiral slicer or mandolin to cut vegetables like spaghetti or fettuccine. It is a simple recipe and quick to make. [Read more…]

Beth Sharp, chef/owner of Evolved Foods

Roasted Quinoa with Caramelized Onions, Apples, and Butternut Squash by Beth Sharp

Join us this Friday during the March Fort Collin’s Foodie Walk (5-8 p.m. Friday March 15th) for a delicious and healthy treat.

Beth Sharp will be in our kitchen cooking and sharing her own recipe, Crispy Quinoa with Caramelized Onions, Apples and Butternut Squash.  Beth is a graduate of the The Nutrition Institute of Denver and chef/owner of Evolved Foods.  Evolved Foods offers clients a 6-12 week culinary and nutrition boot camp to help individuals and families learn to take care of their health through the food they eat.  Join us for an evening centered around healthy tasty food you can make at home, and learn more about Beth and Evolved Foods.

Here is the recipe, but we hope you can stop by to meet Beth and sample this yummy quinoa!

Crispy Quinoa with Caramelized Onions, Apples and Butternut Squash

Recipe by Chef Beth Sharp

Crispy Quinoa with Caramelized Onions, Apples, and Butternut Squash

Crispy Quinoa with Caramelized Onions, Apples, and Butternut Squash

I am forever looking for ways to use the staples I keep in my pantry as creatively, and as tastily, as I can! Crispy quinoa was born one evening when I had mustard greens, eggs and quinoa to feed a guest. Since then, I have made many variations of this recipe.  I experiment using different vegetables and flavors in order to take the recipe in whatever direction I need to go.  The caramelized onions, apples, and squash combination is definitely a crowd pleaser!  I love this dish because it has the feeling of being rich and decadent, while being quite good for you.  Enjoy!

yield: 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

–  1 cup uncooked quinoa, soaked for at least an hour, cooked “quick and dirty”

“Quick and Dirty” Grain Cooking Method

*  This is a great quick method of cooking a grain when you want it to retain a good chew, but be cooked through.

  1.  1 cup of soaked and rinsed quinoa.
  2. Heat 2 cups of water, with  pinch of salt, in a pot with a tight fitting cover. Also have 1/2 cup of HOT water available to adjust doneness of grain with cooking times.
  3. When water has come to a rapid boil, add quinoa to pot. DO NOT replace lid or stir! Turn heat down to a medium simmer (the quinoa should be very actively moving, but not bubbling above the water line).
  4. Keep a close eye on the grain, test consistency (or “chew”) once water has been absorbed, about 10-15 minutes. If you want the quinoa to cook more, add hot water to the pot. DO NOT stir!
  5. Water should be mostly absorbed and quinoa should have “popped” when it is done. Take the pot off the heat, replace the lid, and let rest for 5-10 minutes before using.

INGREDIENTS-continued

–  1 large yellow onion, sliced thin into half rounds

–  2 tablespoons coconut oil (or olive oil), divided

–  1 unpeeled granny smith apple, diced into rough 1/2” cubes

–  1 1/2 cups butternut squash, diced into rough 1/2” cubes, roasted or steamed (roasting brings out the best flavor, but is more time consuming)

–  1/2 teaspoon sea salt

–  1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

–  pinch each of nutmeg, and ground ginger

–  1 egg, beaten

Heat 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in a pan, on medium heat. Add onions to hot oil and toss to coat onions evenly in oil. Stir onions occasionally to allow time for all to have contact with the hot pan surface. Allow onions to cook for about 15 minutes, until they are all a rich, golden brown.

  1. Add diced apples and pre-cooked butternut squash to onions. Allow the apples and squash to warm up before adding spices.
  2. Add spices and toss to coat.
  3. Remove onion mixture from pan, add remaining tablespoon of coconut oil to pan, swirl to coat.
  4. Mix together the cooked quinoa, onion mixture and the beaten egg in a bowl. Add quinoa mixture to hot pan by the cupful. Spread the mixture into 1/2” layer and allow it to cook well on one side before mixing. Use a spatula to scrape up the quinoa and “scramble” it. Repeat until the quinoa has a pleasant, crispy texture.
  5. Serve hot! Add crumbled Herbes de Provence goat cheese on top, for bonus taste!

 

Squash…slicing, pureeing and more!

Squash, a vegetable that looks really beautiful, but seems a little daunting for any kind of regular use, or so I thought. I love the taste of it, but slicing into that hard shell always gives me the feeling I might just end up in the emergency room. But, ever inspired by Sarah Jane’s confidence in the kitchen, I went out and found myself a very nice, large, butternut squash, keeping the end goal of a delicious soup in mind.   Well, first my task was to roast it.  I promptly pulled out my Shun bread knife, which I highly recommend, as it is as sharp as ever.  If anything is going to cut through squash, it will be this knife. After just a bit of sawing and the removal of the stem, I had my squash cut in half…without a trip to the emergency room.

The Shun knife does the trick!

This is when I decided to consult my copy of the Joy of Cooking cookbook on just how to roast squash. Much to my surprise, I discovered that I could have cooked the squash whole!   I am sure Sarah Jane is laughing at me, but I had no idea.   Now, they did mention the importance of cutting 4 to 5 slits at the top of the squash to prevent it from exploding, but nonetheless, you CAN cook a squash whole. It does take double the time, but the skin is so easy to slice once its roasted in the oven, I think it is worth it.   I am definitely remembering this trick when I buy my 6 month supply of squash at the Farmer’s Market this weekend…
Roasting, of course was easy.  I just put some oil in the pan, turned 2 halves upside down, and put it in a 375F oven for 45 minutes.

roasting squash couldn’t be easier…unless you leave the squash whole…

Now, onto the fun part, making soup.   I have just about every gadget one might think of in my kitchen. However, the one item I don’t have is an immersion blender.
There are three different immersion blenders we carry at the store. All three are from Cuisinart.  The first is $29.95…I like this price!..and it is straightforward and simple.  The next version will cost you $49.95 and comes with some extra attachments like a sealing bowl to chop in and a whisk in case you need to whisk up a small batch of heavy cream.  This might prove to be a worthwhile add-on.  The third style costs $79.95 and is battery operated. There is a re-chargeable plug that provides a home for your immersion blender.  This way it is ready to blend anywhere you take it and it is always charged.

So, on to the soup making…I made a simple butternut squash soup with the basic ingredients being onion, diced apples, squash and a little chicken broth.  Once I had the onions and apples nicely browned, I added the squash and some chicken broth.  I then put the immersion blender to use.  One thing that seems fairly obvious is to immerse it in the liquid before blending.  This adds greatly to the efficiency and reduces mess immeasurably.   Before I knew it, my chunks of squash turned into a smooth, buttery puree.  And all I needed to do to clean the blender was rinse it under some running water.  Wow.  Who would ever try to pour hot soup into a blender again?  If you like making soups, this is the gadget to have.  Tune in next week to find out Chef Happy’s secret recipe for squash soup.  And then on Friday October 15th from 11:30-2:30 p.m., come down to The Cupboard and taste this delicious soup and learn how to pick squash, use an immersion blender, and make an outstanding squash soup!

Let the Fall Squashtacular Begin! (and a few fun announcements!)

After a brief sabbatical which included mourning the finish of my amazing CSA share from Raspberry Hill Farms, we are back and better than ever here on the Cupboard blog.  We’ve got a new look and we are excited to share more healthy, local, seasonal eating tips and tricks with you.  There is some great news to share as well, as Scott Hapner, aka Chef Happy, will be joining Jen and I blogging as we tackle fun seasonal foods, local ingredients, share useful tools, and recipes as a group.   You can also look forward to reading book reviews, cooking tool tips, and more goodness from Cupboard employees.

Seeing as it is fall and we are always focused on ways to eat local, fresh produce, it should come as no surprise that the first ingredient Scott, Jen, and I want to chat about is squash!!!

Squash is not only one of the most beautiful, but also flavorful and nutritious foods you can eat. Squash comes in a large variety of types, each with their own characteristics and flavors.  I’m going to outline some basic tips for selecting, storing, cleaning and basics of cooking squash.  Then, be sure to check back Thursday and next Tuesday as Jen is going to cover tools that will make cooking squash easier and Scott is going to share his favorite squash recipes.

Squash grows great in Northern Colorado, so your local farm and farmers market are a great place to buy up hearty local squash.  The Food Co Op and Whole Foods also offer a great selection of locally grown squash if you can’t make it to the farm or market.

Choosing the squash variety can be daunting, with so many colors, shapes, and sizes it can be frightening to tell which variety which is right for you.  There are plenty of references available online to help you learn about squash varieties, my favorite being here http://whatscookingamerica.net/squash.htm.  While resources such as these are awesome tools, I think the best way to find your fave is to just try lots of different kinds!  While there are tons of recipes and ways to really bring out the flavor qualities of each individual variety, basic prep of squash can be done the same way for just about every variety.

When you are selecting your squash, you want to inspect each squash for mushy spots or mold.  You don’t want those!  Pick a squash that has a solid skin free of excessive blemishes and feels heavy for it’s size.  There can be an urge to pick squash that is big for it’s size, but it is best to stay away from those obscenely large ones- the bigger squash gets, the less intense it’s flavor.

Once you get your squash home, be sure to give it a good rub down with some water and a veggie brush (and some cleaner if that is your thing).  Even though you will not eat the skin, it’s important to make sure that skin is clean: since squash grows on the ground, the skin can be exposed to things which you don’t want making their way into your food.

You can store whole squash in a cool, dry place for up to 6 months (That’s right, up to half a year.  Load up now and you can eat local straight through to next spring’s produce!).  In a cupboard is a great place, or I’ve even heard of folks who keep them out in the garage.  Just be sure to keep an eye on them for signs of mold or losing their firmness.

Some people enjoy cooking squash whole and simply pop it in the oven at this point.  I’m not one of those people, so we’re going to keep writing.  It’s not that I have anything against it, I just have only tried it a few times and it seemed to take to long for my tastes.

To cut up your squash you’re going to need 2 things: One big ol’ super sharp knife (make sure it’s sharp, if yours are dull bring them into the shop and we’ll be happy to sharpen them up for you) and a nice set of upper body strength.  Seriously, cutting a squash in half is easily the same exertion level as 5 push ups.  Ok, maybe girl push ups, but still.  Once you get that puppy in half, scoop out the seeds and innards.  Some people save the seeds for snacks, and some recipes call for them in the prep, so be sure to check before you discard them.

Tip on scooping innards:  buy a grapefruit spoon for this part.  The serrated edge makes this step super simple and cuts through all those strands that get tangled around and stop up a normal spoon.  This method also kicks behind on cantaloupes.  I have a lot of spare time in the kitchen to think about these things.

You can choose to leave the squash in halves, or can chop into smaller pieces.  Only differences there really being for recipes (if the squash will be stuffed you will want to leave it in half, etc.) and cook time (smaller pieces = smaller cooking time).

Now, there are a whole slew of ways to cook squash: on the stovetop, in the microwave, roasting, crock pot, etc, however we’re talking super basic and works for every variety here, so I’m going to bake mine.

I simply preheat an oven to 350°, place the squash in a shallow baking dish, and bake.  I like to put a small amount of water in the bottom of the pan to help ensure the squash won’t dry out.  Now, for baking times.  Let’s say a generic time is about 45 minutes- but the truth is, your time will be determined by the thickness of your squash.  I just start checking mine around 30 minutes and then go from there.  You can tell the squash is done when you can slide a spoon into the meat without having to use those girl push up muscles we covered earlier.

And that’s it!  You cooked squash!

I like to eat mine with some butter and salt, or maybe a little maple syrup, or mashed up with a little olive oil and Parmesan.  Just experiment and see what works for you.  Be sure to check back Thursday as Jen is going to outline some tools for cooking squash, and then 1 week from today Scott Hapner is going to share a favorite squash recipe or two of his own.  Then on Friday the 15th, as part of the Cupboard anniversary sale, Jen, Scott and I will be in the store cooking up squash and offering tastes to lucky folks.  Be sure to mark your calendar to stop by!

As always, let us know what you think!  Leave a comment, we’d love to hear from you!