Monthly Archives: September 2013

Spaghetti Squash Salad With Radicchio, Basil, and Shaved Romano

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Ahhh…September 29.  Fall has most certainly arrived in Michigan, folks, and I couldn’t be happier about it.  How do I love thee, dear Autumn?  Let me count the ways…..

  1. The trees bursting into fiery reds, yellows, and oranges (for those of you who have not been to Michigan in the fall, and especially the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, you are really missing out–plan a trip!).
  2. I get to turn on my oven, and the longer the better….
  3. I suddenly want to eat crisps, and how could that be a bad thing?  Apple crisps, peach crisps, pear crisps…mmmmm…!
  4. I’m the kind of girl who really doesn’t like wearing shorts.  Fall eliminates that concern with no loss of comfort.
  5. The “crisp” air that only comes in the fall.
  6. Everyone getting outside to enjoy the last of the good weather.
  7. Art Prize!  The world’s largest juried art competition, and just down the hill in downtown Grand Rapids.
  8. The triumphant return of flannel.  And a warm ‘welcome back’ to down vests, knee high boots, cable sweaters, mittens, and skinny jeans.
  9. The smell of wood smoke and harvest moons when we’re heading home from walks downtown.
  10. Apples, pears, squash, plums, kale, beets, soups and stews, ‘nuf said…!

I could go on and on about why I love fall but I’ll cut to the chase and get to the tasty stuff.  I truly believe that our bodies crave what is in season.  How do I know this?  In spring, all I want is asparagus, peas, radishes, and spring greens.  In the summer it’s corn, corn, corn, and tomatoes, summer squashes, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and peaches.  Now that the air is turning cooler and the sun sets at eight (when did that happen!?), all I want is to turn the oven on and roast squash, turnips, beets, and carrots.  I’ve already gone through two delicata squash and a large spaghetti squash by myself in the last three days.  And…I want more.  As we speak, spaghetti squash number two is in the oven, two more delicata squash have been seeded, sliced, and roasted, and two sheet pans of beets, turnips, and carrots are being roasted for meals this week.  And what the heck, I think I’ll throw in some apples to roast in a bit.  I’m going whole hog today, with no animals harmed in the process.

Yesterday I walked downtown to look at more ArtPrize exhibits (in September and October our city transforms into a giant art exhibit, with about 1,500 artists displaying their work at venues all over downtown.  Everywhere you turn there is something beautiful, exciting, unique, inspiring, heart-wrenching, joyful, colorful, or thought-provoking.  And thousands of people come to view and engage with the art, turning our city alive in a way I have never seen it before.

An Art Prize exhibit...these figurines were made by melting Crayola crayons into molds.

An Art Prize exhibit…these figurines were made by melting Crayola crayons into molds.

An artist knitting away in her Art Prize Yarn House exhibit...very original and cozy to boot.

An artist knitting away in her Art Prize Yarn House exhibit…very original and cozy to boot.

Art Prize has music now, too!  Some good old time banjo on a beautiful sunny and warm fall day.

Art Prize has music now, too! Some good old time banjo on a beautiful sunny and warm fall day.

After I walked around for several hours yesterday until my poor little feet could take it no more, I headed home to the solitude of my kitchen to whip up a few autumn-inspired dishes.  This salad was one of the results.  Simple, very healthy, low calorie, vibrant, and filling.  It’s going to be a dish I turn to again and again each fall.

What are your favorite things about fall in your neck of the woods?  I’m curious what fall is like outside of Michigan…do tell!

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Spaghetti Squash Salad with Radicchio, Basil, and Shaved Romano Cheese

Serves 4

  • 1 medium-large spaghetti squash
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons basil, sliced into thin strips
  • 1 small head of radicchio, sliced into thin strips
  • 2 tablespoons chopped hazelnuts
  • 1 more tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons homemade balsamic honey glaze, or store-bought if you have it on hand
  • 1 ounce Romano or Parmesan cheese, shaved
  1. Heat oven to 375°.
  2. Prepare the squash.  Carefully cut the squash in half lengthwise.  I like to cut a bit off the bottom so it stand upright without wobbling before I cut it.
  3. Next, scoop the seeds out of the squash halves.  Place the squash halves, cut side up, on a baking sheet and brush with the olive oil.  Poke a each half a few times with a fork, concentrating on the ends.  Cover with tin foil and bake until you can pierce the squash with a fork.  Note that it won’t feel as soft as some squash does when baked.  There will be a little resistance but you will be able to push the fork through.  Let squash cool on the pan.
  4. Once squash is cool enough to tough, take a fork and drag it along the middle of the squash.  The squash will start to come up in strings that look like spaghetti noodles.  Continue to scrape the squash into a bowl until you are left with the outside skin of the squash.  Discard the skin.
  5. Toss the squash in the bowl with basil, radicchio, hazelnuts, olive oil, and balsamic honey glaze.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Dish into smaller bowls and sprinkle with shaved Romano or Parmesan before serving.

 

Pear-Apple-Cranberry Crisp

Ah…it’s autumn in Michigan. My favorite time of year. The air is crisp, everyone begins cramming in the last of outdoor fun, the incredible aroma of Michigan apples fills the farmer’s market, and pears spill out over the patio from the pear tree in the corner of our yard.

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I was never a fan of pears when I was a kid. As time has gone on and my tastebuds have matured, I’ve come to accept pears in my life. I’m not saying I’ve outright embraced them but they have a toe in the door nowadays, and that’s saying a lot for me.

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What brought about this change? The pear tree in my back yard. When hundreds of pears began to fall that first fall after I bought my house, I was determined to learn to love them. I felt so lucky to have a fruit-bearing tree at my house in the heart of the city.

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I really enjoy the pear tree’s beautiful white blossoms in the spring and eagerly anticipate the fruit ripening in the fall. I particularly enjoy them with some aged white cheddar cheese on a fruit and cheese platter. Last year I enjoyed a pear crisp with cardamom. This year I decided to update that, bringing in my favorite fall fruit, the apple, along with some dried cranberries, to create a truly fall dessert.

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There is nothing I enjoy more than a crisp baking in the oven as the leaves are painted red and down vests, sweaters, scarves, and fashion boots appear in place of shorts and sundresses. Crisps are easy and make the best of the season’s fruits. Cut up some fruits, pop this in the oven, and enjoy steaming up the windows of your kitchen for the first time this year.

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Pear-Apple-Cranberry Crisp:

4 tablespoons butter + some for greasing the pan
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup unbleached flour
pinch of salt
1.5 lbs pears, cored and sliced
1.5 lbs apples, cored and sliced
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Heat the oven to 400°. Grease an 8 or 9″ pan with a little bit of butter. Cream the butter, oil and sugar together, using a mixer or fork. Stir in the nuts, seeds, lemon juice, oats, flour, and salt, until combined and crumbly. You can make the topping ahead of time, if you like.

Put the pears, apples, and cranberries in the prepared dish, sprinkle with cardamom, and toss to coat. Crumble the topping over all. Bake until the filling is bubbly and the crust is starting to brown, 30-40 minutes. Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream if you have it!

If you have a pear tree as I do, you have hundreds of pears and are surely looking for ideas on what to use them in. Here are some recipes from Cooking Light to try if you fancy something different than my pear crisp recipe below:

Pear Muffins: http://www.cookinglight.com/food/quick-healthy/healthy-muffin-recipes-00412000070942/page22.html

Pear-Cranberry Pie with Oatmeal Streusel:
http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/pear-cranberry-pie-with-oatmeal-streusel-10000001673034/

Cold Oats with Dried Fruit and Nuts

‘He looked at his watch, astonished how the months had fallen out of it.”  –The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx

This summer has flown by in a happy, hectic whirl.  Amidst the excitement and busy-ness, there have been a few constants.  Warm, heavy evenings interrupted only by the crack of the bat and the roar of a crowd while listening to the Detroit Tigers on the radio.  Letting the dog out, then in, then out again.  The slow summer rhythm of the neighborhood, with neighbors spilling out on porches and long, spontaneous chats while walking the pup.  Drew’s wet waders slung over the white pipe railing of the back porch to dry, oozing tales of trout or simple tales of a good wade down a stream (“That’s why they call it fishing, not catching,” he reminds me).   The communion of friends sharing meals and stories under the twinkle fairy lights on our back patio.  Saturday mornings bumping into friends and talking with our farmers at the market.  The sweetness of a good night kiss shared.  Cold oatmeal for breakfast.

We have eaten cold oatmeal nearly every morning over the last four months.  And yet, each day I wake up looking forward to it in its many variations.  Soon the warm months will have moved on and we’ll be switching back to oatmeal in other forms, oat bran, cooked rolled oats, baked oats, oatmeal griddle cakes.

Cold oats can, and have, been enjoyed in our household in every which way.  On a Saturday morning in summertime, in a patch of sunlight on the back stoop, glasses still on, hair wild, eyelids heavy, one hand thumbing through a cooking magazine.  On a Tuesday morning, racing to get out the door to work, spoon in one hand, blow dryer in the other.  At the desk at work, typing with one hand, eating a greatly anticipated breakfast with the other.  At the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula at a campground, coffee bubbling in the percolator on the camp stove, a morning fire in the fire pit, reading the What’s U.P.? paper, a hodgepodge of odd news and Upper Peninsula real estate.  On a Sunday, listening to our BBC radio drama, The Archers, and drinking our pour-over coffees.

Cold oatmeal (aka Muesli) has been a constant in these moments over the warm spring and summer months.  It has been both a breakfast made for the simplicity and the quickness of it, and a breakfast made for the enjoyment of it.  Some of the best meals are the simplest and this is an excellent example.

Because oatmeal is such a constant in my life, it has become the unsung hero of my mornings.  I have not thought to post about cold oats until this post came about, opting to write about more savory, later-in-the-day meals instead.  But how could I not share this beloved meal with you?

Cold oatmeal can be made in a huge variety of ways, whatever suits your tastes or pantry at the moment.  The formula I usually follow is oats, almond milk, dried fruit, nuts, maple syrup.  Occasionally if the fruit is good I’ll stir in some fresh peaches, blueberries, raspberries, figs, or plums but usually I enjoy dried fruit, soaked in the oat mixture over night.

One of the best things about this breakfast is that it is a huge time saver.  The night before, you simply put old-fashioned rolled oats into a jar or bowl, cover with just under twice as much plant-based or animal-based milk, any additions you want, and place back in the fridge overnight.  In the morning, you don’t need to lift a finger (or turn on the stove if the day is a hot one) to enjoy a filling and satisfying breakfast.  Convinced?  Follow the easiest-recipe-in-the-world below and you’ll be singing its praises too.

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Cold Oats With Dried Fruit and Nuts

  • 1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 and 3/4 cup almond milk, soy milk, or cow’s milk
  • 3-4 dates, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons walnuts, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup, optional (some folks are happy with the sweetness of the fruit without additional sweetener)
  1.  Mix all ingredients into a jar or bowl.
  2. Let sit overnight in the refrigerator.
  3. Grab a spoon, stumble to the fridge, grab cold oats, and dig in.

Serves 2

Variations:

  • Substitute raisins, cranberries, dried plums, dried cherries, or any other favorite dried fruit.
  • Add fresh fruits when in season.  Blueberries, peaches, nectarines, prune plums, raspberries, blackberries…all are good options.
  • Cook up some apples with cinnamon and stir into the mix.
  • Substitute yogurt for some or all of the milk.
  • Experiment with raw pumpkin seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, or any other nuts you love.