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I’m supposed to be writing I will  am write writing a thesis this year. It will be the culmination of a three year dual masters program that I’m looking forward to finishing come June 2013. We’re on a quarter system, and just finished week 5 out of the 10 week quarter. That means, I have 5 weeks remaining to write a thesis prospectus that me and my committee feel good about, while working full time and going to class until 10pm three nights a week. It’s exciting, terrifying, and exhausting all at once. I’m almost surprised to find myself standing and able to make it out of the house to work once Friday rolls around.

The most challenging thing about my crazy schedule is finding the time to go to the gym and cook proper meals. I love to make dinner – I find it sort of meditative. The second most challenging this is my serious problem with procrastination. Last weekend I wasted away making this amazing pull apart pumpkin bread (I had to skip the glaze – the bread was a bit too sweet for me as it was) and this array of roasted gems. Keeping with the pull apart theme, I plan to give this one a try this weekend. I’ll let you know how it goes.

If you finished all your roasted vegetables and you just don’t know what to make next because the rain has washed away all of your brilliant and delicious plans: make a spaghetti squash and top it with a simple marinara. If you’re worried it won’t be substantive enough, add some lentils to your sauce. Somehow, I managed to go through more than two thirds of my life without understanding the wonder that is spaghetti squash. If you don’t love it already, it’s only a matter of time…

Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Marinara

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 t oregano
  • 1 T basil
  • 2 T olive oil
  • Roughly 2 cups diced tomatoes
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup lentils (optional)
  • Salt + Pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Put your squash into the oven whole. Allow it to roast for about 30 minutes or until it feels tender. While your squash is roasting, prepare the sauce. Saute the onion in the olive oil until its translucent. Add the garlic, oregano and basil. Saute another couple of minutes. Add the tomato paste and diced tomatoes. Allow the sauce to simmer. Add salt, pepper and other spices to taste. I’m really informal about tomato sauce – sometimes I add balsamic vinegar or red wine, sometimes chili flakes for a spicy sauce, sometimes a little agave if the tomatoes aren’t sweet. Occasionally a touch of cinnamon. I like to keep it really simple for the spaghetti squash though – its so sweet and hearty on its own, a fresh tasting sauce really balances it out.

If you’re planning to add the lentils, precook them a bit first and then add them to the sauce.

Remove your squash from the oven with hot pads or oven mitts. It should give a little when you pick it up. Cut off the stem end, and then slice it in half. Gently remove the seeds with a fork. Once you’ve removed the seeds use the fork to separate the strands of squash from the skin. I find it helpful to scoop them into a bowl as I go. Toss the strands with a little olive oil and pepper. Serve as you would spaghetti topped with marinara!

Sorry for the lack of photos. What I will share with you is this: tomato paste in a tube! Brilliant, Trader Joe’s. Brilliant!

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Its been raining at least once a day for the past two weeks, I’ve packed away my sandals and busted out my collection of opaque tights and have traded the glory of fresh tomatoes for apples and pumpkin everything. Fall has arrived.

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I love fall vegetables, almost as much as I love summer produce. Almost. I love the saturated colors and the caramelized sweetness you get when you roast them. This particular round of roasted veggies was inspired by a gorgeous romanesco cauliflower I found at the market. A perfect match to the beets, sweet potatoes and parsnips hanging out in my veggie drawer.

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I roasted each vegetable separately; tossing them first in olive oil, truffle salt, and freshly ground pepper before putting them into a 425 degree oven. I go to the trouble of cooking them separately because like my cauliflower to have a little crunch to it and my beets to keep their color to themselves, but you certainly could combine them all and add the cauliflower for the last 15 minutes or so. The result was a lovely rainbow of roasted vegetables…

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It’s funny that out of the handful of recipes I have on this blog, this is my second post about fish, because I’ve only cooked fish three times in my lifetime.

I had my parents over to our house last week for dinner and I wanted to make something easy, simple and delicious. Halibut is in season, and I always love fennel and orange. Usually in a beet salad, but for some reason I got this idea in my head of halibut, fennel and orange in parchment packets and I couldn’t shake it. Thus, a dinner menu was born. I served this with basmati rice and steamed bok choy. For dessert, we had amazing roasted rhubarb over vanilla ice cream. I am still dreaming of that rhubarb – if only the stalks would grow back overnight…

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You’ll need:

  • Fresh halibut for 4, divided into 4 pieces
  • 1 fennel bulb + fronds
  • 1/4 cup parsley
  • 1 orange
  • Butter
  • Salt + Pepper
  • 4 sheets parchment

Slice the fennel, roughly chop your parsley, and supreme the orange and set aside so you are ready to assemble. Keep the membranes from your orange, you’ll use their juice. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

On your first sheet of parchment, lay out a bed of fennel and place a piece of fish on top. Top with a pat of butter, and salt and pepper. Then assemble 1/4 of the orange slices, more of the fennel, parsley and fennel fronds on top. Squeeze a bit of the orange juice over the fish, and seal the parchment packet by folding the edges together. You’ll want the seam facing up while the fish is baking so the juices do not escape. Repeat for each piece of fish, and place your four packets on a baking sheet. Bake for 12-14 minutes.

I just ate the most amazing salad – full of fresh corn, blueberries, basil and quinoa. Although I usually enjoy the result, I tend to cringe at the idea of putting delicious summer fruits into savory things. I’ll throw an apple into anything – but I’m a purist when it comes to farm fresh nectarines, peaches, apricots and berries. I made an exception for blueberries last night while concocting a quinoa salad to bring for my lunch – and the result was divine. Crunchy  corn and sweet blueberries, paired with a mild balsamic and olive oil dressing, laced with just picked basil and tossed with wholesome quinoa. So good.

To create:

  1. two ears of summer corn – cooked lightly (boil water, add corn, cook 5 minutes and drain) after your corn has cooled, cut from the cob
  2. one pint blueberries, washed
  3. 1 cup quinoa, rinsed (boil quinoa in 1 1/2 cups water, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. set aside)
  4. small bunch of basil, washed and chopped
  5. olive oil, sea salt, balsamic vinegar combined to make about 1 cup of dressing
  6. in a bowl, combine corn, blueberries and basil. toss with dressing. add cooked quinoa. enjoy!

I learned to properly pronounce gratin (thats grah-tahn, folks) at the Greens Restaurant in San Francisco a few years back. Greens is a lovely vegetarian restaurant where vegetarian chef superhero Deborah Madison cut her teeth. I found this recipe in my favorite of her books, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. 

This gratin is rich and satisfying – without being weighed down by too much butter and cheese. We enjoyed it with a salad of  roasted beets and greens, and a delicious Paso Robles syrah. This is my adaptation of the dish… an approximation of my process in the kitchen Monday afternoon.

  • 1 medium butternut squash, seeded, peeled and cubed
  • 1-2 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh sage
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 1/8 cup fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup grated fontina
  • 3/4 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. saute onion in olive oil over medium heat until translucent. add sage and thyme and cook until lightly caramelized. season with salt and pepper.
  3. lightly oil the bottom of a gratin or casserole dish. create abase layer of caramelized onions.
  4. toss squash cubes in flour and brown in a skillet. Add parsley and season with salt and pepper. Layer over onions in casserole dish.
  5. Warm vegetable stock and pour over layers – cover with 1/4 cup grated cheese.
  6. Cover and bake for 25-30 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven and top with breadcrumbs and remaining cheese. Bake uncovered for 25 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.

self.comThis was really tasty and I’ve been meaning to post about it since I made it for dinner two weeks ago! Its a long story, but somehow I got stuck with a two year subscription to Self. No offense to Self or anything – but I have a list of magazines I’d rather have delivered to me for two years. Note to self (me, not magazine): be more careful with “three free issues!” offers. especially when debit card numbers are involved. However, last months issue came complete with a tasty dinner plan! Salmon Florentine with Quinoa Pilaf! Delicious. I’ve linked to their recipe, since you’re already reading this, I’ll tell you how I made it too.

  • Four salmon fillets (budget friendly trick – you can get frozen wild salmon at trader joe’s for a decent price, and since you’re putting the tasty florentine mix on top before you bake it, I really don’t think fresh salmon would make a huge difference)
  • One bunch spinach, chopped (Self calls for frozen spinach, which I find to be absurdly expensive. Fresh is where its at.)
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 sun dried tomatoes, chopped (these are pricy if you buy a whole jar of them – I live near a co-op and bought 6 from the bulk bin for less than a dollar! Soak them in hot water for 30 minutes before chopping and you’re good to go!)
  • 1/4 t crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 cup part skim ricotta
  • sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

If you’re using frozen salmon, allow it to thaw in the fridge overnight. Rinse and place in baking dish. Heat oven to 350. Saute spinach until wilted. Transfer to a colander and allow to drain. With olive oil, saute shallots and garlic. Add crushed red pepper, sun dried tomatoes, salt and pepper. Add drained spinach, and ricotta. Divide mixture and place on top of salmon fillets. Bake 15-20 minutes (until fish is cooked through).

While your salmon is cooking, prepare your quinoa pilaf! You’ll need:

  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted in a dry skillet
  • fresh parsley, chopped
  • olive oil

Bring broth and quinoa to a boil. Turn heat to low, and simmer covered for 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Saute onion in olive oil. Transfer quinoa to a bowl and toss with onions, parsley, and toasted pine nuts.

Impress your mister with your fish baking skills! Enjoy!

A and I strolled through the farmers market after brunch on Sunday to find the tables piled high with the abundance of fall. The towers of peppers, winter squash, kale and chard were inspiration for meals to come. I’ve been especially aching for some dark leafy greens – sometimes salad greens just don’t cut it. Luckily, I stumbled upon this delicious recipe on Whitney’s blog inspired by Bon Appetit. I had picked up some quinoa spaghetti and was anxious to try it. I quickly made a note of the things I needed to pick up on my way home: lemon, kale, garlic and parmesan. How delightfully simple. Added bonus: I ran into my siiiiiiister in line at the grocery store! Its so fun living in the same neighborhood as your siblings! Post workout, we invited our friend L to stay for dinner, and the three of us chatted while I threw this together. I thought this was excellent (A and L liked it too!) and only found myself wishing there had been more delicious greens to balance out the pasta. Next time, I would double the kale.

  • 1 medium onion, diced (I had a half a large onion in the fridge, and used that instead)
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 pound spaghetti (quinoa spaghetti for gluten free!)
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped (more if  you fancy. I just noticed the bon appetit recipe calls for 8 – but I was making this on the fly)
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 cup parmesan
  • 1 bunch kale (washed, drained, stems and ribs removed, cut crosswise)

In a large pot. Bring water to a boil. Add pasta. In a large skillet, saute onion until translucent. Add garlic, cook over low for 2 minutes. Add kale, cover and stir occasionally. I like my kale a little on the firm side, so I only allowed it to cook for about 7 minutes and then removed it from the heat. Check on pasta. This was my first time cooking with quinoa pasta, so I spent quite a bit of time testing it. When pasta is finally done, drain and return to pan with a little olive oil. Add kale and parmesan and toss well. Finish with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon. Enjoy!

The boniato tacos at Agua Verde in Seattle are amazing. Topped with cojita and a green creamy salsa, they are divine.

I picked up an enormous yam on my way home from work for $2.21. Talk about budget shopping! That is a screaming deal for a taco filler. I already had corn tortillas that were desperately waiting to be used, onions,

cilantro, cabbage and an awesome avocado.

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Trying to recreate the deliciousness that boniato… I first sauteed generous pieces of sweet onion in butter. While the onions were cooking, I peeled and diced the monstrous yam and added it to the pan. There are very few things I make without using cumin, and I added a generous teaspoon to the yams and onions, and about a half a teaspoon of cayenne. Wishing for a little more texture on the cubes of delicious yams, after they had softened a bit (about 10 minutes) I moved them onto a baking sheet and roasted them at 500 F for another 10 minutes to caramelize them a bit.

Too assemble: warm corn tortillas in skillet, layer shredded cabbage, roasted yams, a generous slice of avocado, chopped cilantro and salsa if you have it.

The result? Totally tasty. Now if only I can figure out what their creamy green salsa is made from…

People. 

Uninspired cubicle worker? Check! Aspiring food blogger? Check! Okay, maybe I’m not quite as inspired to be such a dedicated blogger, but I am really excited to see this movie. It looks adorable. My sister and I saw the preview at 500 Days of Summer and she was like “Omg, E! Its about you!”