Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Moroccan Inspired Stuffed Acorn Squash

It has been cold in Austin lately, colder than it has been in years so I've been told. I bought an acorn squash about a week ago thinking I would make some kind of soup out of it. But then I stumbled upon this recipe. I decided to make a few tweaks and cut the recipe down to serve only two. I used ingredients I had on hand and the squash was very tasty. It made a lovely presentation, not to mention the fact it made my kitchen smell wonderfully exotic.

Moroccan Inspired Stuffed Acorn Squash

1 acorn squash, cut in half, long ways
2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
2 mild Italian sausage links
1/2 small yellow onion, chopped fine
1 large garlic clove, minced
pinch cinnamon
pinch nutmeg
1/4 cup orzo
1/4 cup quinoa
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup dried cranberries, chopped
2 tablespoons of pecans, chopped
2 tablespoons cilantro, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Spray a baking pan with nonstick cooking spray and place squash cut side down. Bake for 35 minutes. While the squash is baking, prepare the filling.

In a deep skillet over a medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. Remove the casing from the sausages and break the links into small chunks. Add Italian sausage, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a sprinkle of salt to the skillet.

Cook until brown (about 5 to 7 minutes), drain meat, leaving juices still in the pan, and place sausage in a bowl. Add onions to the skillet and cook until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.

Add the quinoa and orzo, and stir until combined. Pour in the chicken broth and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 15-18 minutes. Fluff quinoa and orzo, add the cooked meat, cranberries, pecans, cilantro, add salt and pepper to taste. After the acorn squash has baked, remove it from the oven and scoop out the soft flesh with a spoon. Leave about 1/4 inch thick shell. Chop the scooped out flesh into chunks and add it to the filling mixture. Spoon the filling mixture into the squash bowls. There will be a generous amount of filling for each squash half. Bake for 15 minutes. Serves two.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Wine Cube = Genius

My husband knows me really well. At Christmas one of his presents was a portable, disposable four pack of wine called the Wine Cube - seriously, how cute is this?! It is the made by Trinchero Family Estates out of Napa. And it is darn cute. Not only is it eco-friendly, it is super easy to transport. The label says each single sized serving offers grab and go convenience. I can imagine the possibilities. I could stick this in my back pack or even my purse!

I decided to have a little wine tasting tonight to try it out. This is like a juice box for grown ups. Each wine cube is 250 ml (approximately 8.5 ounces, or a generous pour as I like to say). The wine is not bad, it is a bit fruity and has a smooth finish. I could totally see myself sneaking one of these into the pool next summer. Heh.

The box says this product is only available at Target. Yeah, another reason to love Target! I think this retails for around $9.99, so it is very reasonably priced to boot. I give the Wine Cube and my hubby two thumbs up!

Monday, January 4, 2010

2010 Food Goals

So I've been thinking about my diet and things I want to try with food in the coming year. I've only lived in Austin four months but it hasn't taken that long to realize what a culinary wasteland Cincinnati was. Going to the grocery store here is such a joy. I don't have to hope and pray the grocery will have cilantro or a decent piece of fish. There are choices, such nice choices. And no excuse not to cook something fabulous. One of my favorite places to shop is Central Market, it isn't as overwhelming or as expensive as Whole Foods. Their produce is off the charts. It is also a nice place to graze on a Saturday.

Anyway, back to the year at hand. A new year, in a new state with so many things to try and do. Here are some things I've set as goals for 2010:

1. Eat less processed food and less refined sugars. I've gotten pretty good at not eating candy bars, soda, chips and assorted junk food. I still need to wean myself off canned soups and the occasional frozen prepared meal. If it is convenient, it probably isn't good for you at all. Too many chemicals and way too much sodium is not good. I'm trying to eat freshly made foods without chemicals.

2. Try new vegetables and fruits, eat the rainbow. I have a list of veggies and fruits I want to try. For example, last night for the first time in my life, I ate brussel sprouts and I really liked them - a bit of a shocker. I followed this recipe and it was delicious. My husband still refuses to touch brussel sprouts, but I am a new fan. On my short list to cook this year is kohlrabi, beets, rutabaga, passion fruit, papaya, black eyed peas and scotch bonnets. Also, I want to cook more lentils. They are so delicious, high in fiber and easy on the wallet.

3. Join a CSA. I belonged to a CSA (community sustained agriculture, a farm) back in Ohio. I loved getting my box of veggies every week. The farmer would surprise me with fresh picked strawberries or fresh eggs and tender lettuces. It was fun to see what I would get and what I would cook up with the ingredients each week. I am looking in to joining a CSA in Austin. It is a great way to get fresh, seasonal produce while supporting your local farmer. Go to Local Harvest to find one in your area.

4. Do not eat junk at work. People mean well, but they bring total crap to work. And then it is 10:30 a.m., you are starving and there it is. Not good. I just need to stay out of the kitchen at work.

5. Keep a food journal. I lost 30 lbs last year following Weight Watchers and an integral part of the weight loss was keeping track of everything I ate. You've heard about this a million times, but it really does work. Having to write it down made me skip the second or third cookie, or the second glass of wine after work.

6. Try a new recipe at least once a week. I have a mountain of recipes to try. I need to make the time to shop for the ingredients and spend the time to cook something new. I sometimes get stuck in a cooking rut, trying a new recipe per week will help me keep things from becoming blah.

So that is what I'm thinking about for this year. I look forward to trying new things and sharing my successes (and the failures!) with you.