Delicata Squash with Leeks

Delicata Squash with Leeks
2 servings

Delicata squash are so great and easy because you can eat the skin making preparation quick! This recipe could also be used for other varieties of squash.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 delicata squash - halved, seeds removed and reserved, and squash thinly sliced
1/4 cup chicken broth, or as needed
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 leek, halved and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon olive oil

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat; saute squash until lightly browned, 5 to 10 minutes. Add chicken broth and slightly cover skillet; cook until squash is very tender and broth is evaporated, 5 to 10 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a separate skillet over medium heat; saute leek until tender and lightly browned, about 10 minutes.

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a small skillet over medium heat; saute squash seeds until lightly browned and a few make popping sounds, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Mix leek into squash and add more olive oil if desired; season with salt and pepper. Serve with a sprinkling of squash seeds.


Three to Get Ready

This year has been full of change, new beginnings, good times with new and old friends, and a very sunny summer. My blogiversary falls in September every year; a good time to reflect on the past year as we start to bundle up and prepare for colder weather. I've learned a lot this year from many different people and experiences. You'll notice that some of my life lessons are food related and some are more just generally speaking...but all in all, my passion for food has led to all of these findings. Thank you to my family and friends and everyone I have shared the past year with!

Without further ado, here are this year's lessons learned:

 Action expresses priorities. -Ghandi

A sprinkle of paprika makes almost everything look fancy.

Fiascos often lead to great new discoveries, as painful as the transition may be.

When a guy on the street asks if you put your finger in the electric socket every time you walk by him, just laugh.

Most bad days can be turned around with a slice of pizza and a glass of wine or two.

The path of more resistance is likely the more rewarding of the two.

Hard-boiling eggs only takes 20 minutes; a possibility before work.

The big things in life often arrive in different packaging than we planned...and may even be better.

If opportunity isn't knocking, try a different approach.

Inspiration often arrives after a good sweat.

Sharing wine with someone, even from a plastic water bottle, brings you closer.

Everyone who eats meat, will like buffalo chicken dip.

If you have the power to make someone happy, do it. The world needs more of that. -quote on FB

Trust your instincts and follow your passion even if you don't know where it's leading you.

If you can do it, you must...even if you are tired and don't want to.

Vulnerability makes us all more human.

Goals, regardless of size, make us grow.

When you are having a spectacular day, make a list of all the things that make you happy and keep it in your wallet for bad days.

Pita bread makes extraordinary pizza crust.

Always, always, always try your hardest.

All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.  -Nietzsche

Be grateful for family and close friends...they are mirrors of ourselves.

Appreciate the path you've taken. It has made you who you are today.


Cheesy Zucchini Casserole

I woke up the other morning with a slight nagging feeling of what to do with the pile of zucchini in my fridge. I had been playing dodge ball with them all week. All the traditional methods of cooking zucchini didn't sound good. Therefore I didn't prepare them at all.

And then viola, Allrecipes sent a newsletter with a recipe video for yellow squash casserole. The recipe called for squash (or in my case zucchini), eggs, Cheddar cheese, bread crumbs, and milk. Done and done. I had all of those items. Although, I was going to have to 'make' bread crumbs with my saltine crackers. So I jumped out of bed ready to tackle the zucchini.

First on the agenda was to crush crackers with a rolling pin. I was so pleasantly surprised how easily they crumbled. Just a few rolls of the pin, and crackers transformed into crumbs. I sauteed the zucchini and onion, added a touch of bacon for a hint of salty, and and pulled out fresh figs as a sweet finish for the meal. Standing there sipping coffee while it baked for 20 minutes, I was quite pleased the universe answered my plea for a new way to cook zucchini.

Cheesy Zucchini Casserole
Inspired by Allrecipes.com
Makes about 4 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 zucchini, thinly sliced
1/4 onion, thinly sliced
salt and black pepper
1 slice cooked bacon, crumbled
1/2 cup bread crumbs (or cracker crumbs)
1/2 cup Cheddar cheese
1 egg
1 egg white
1/4 cup skim milk
1 tablespoon melted butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter an 8x8-inch baking dish.

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat; saute zucchini and onion until lightly browned and softened, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer squash mixture to a medium bowl and mix in crumbled bacon.

Mix bread crumbs and Cheddar cheese together in a separate bowl. Whisk egg, egg white, and skim milk together in a third bowl; pour egg mixture into squash mixture and mix well. Pour about half the bread crumb-Cheddar mixture into squash mixture and stir until bread crumbs are evenly moistened.

Pour squash mixture into the prepared baking dish. Stir melted butter into the remaining bread crumb-Cheddar mixture until moistened; sprinkle over casserole.

Bake in the preheated oven until casserole is set and topping is lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Cool in the baking dish for about 10 minutes before serving.


Homemade Energy Bars

Energy bars used to be an intangible sort of recipe so intimidating I simply opted for store-bought. Every prior attempt to make them either ended in a crumbly mess, stuck to the pan, or had hints of cardboard flavor. Recipes always seemed to have a large list of ingredients I probably couldn't find or would be a small investment in Whole Foods. These fearful thoughts have been lingering in the shadows of my mind for years....until now.

The 'energy bar' has finally been demystified. It's really not all that scary. It reminds me of the rafting trip the girls and I took last summer. I spent many sleepless nights sweating out my anxiety over the three hour rafting trip. What if the raft tipped over; what if I got caught in a rapid, what if my paddle flew over the edge. But in the reasonable part of the day, usually after a cup of coffee, I reminded myself people go on rafting trips every day...this was no big deal. And it really wasn't. I did get nervous during the initial training of what to do if you get caught under an over-turned boat. But I swallowed my fear, put on my fancy sunglasses, and pretended not to be scared. As we launched into the water I succumbed to the idea there was no turning back...it was us and the rapids.

It started out as a smooth and calm float down the river. We all chatted and sunbathed. Then the water started moving a little quicker; the instructor started getting firmer in her tone. Then suddenly we were in the thick of the rapids. We did whatever she told us to do to keep the boat afloat. Then there would be calm and we high-fived each other. This cycle continued for an hour or so, boosting our confidence after every rapid. Then the clouds darkened and we got to very calm water where we could jump in and swim. We played boat games of one side paddling so we could do river 'donuts'. Then the clouds started getting ominously dark, followed by the crack of thunder, cold rain, hail, and lightening. Back to survival mode again. At this point, we just wanted to get back to base camp. We paddled our frozen arms as fast as possible to warmth. We docked, quickly carried boat and paddles to camp, peeled off our soaked wet suits, and warmed ourselves with cups of hot chocolate.

Energy bar recipe fear may be a drastic comparison to rafting trip fear. But it only takes pulling out the mixing bowl to start. May this carry over into other areas of my life...like making pork chops or mastering crow pose ;/

Homemade Energy Bars
Makes about 48 small squares
Adapted from Allrecipes Magazine First Edition

Energy bars are one of the most forgiving recipes. The original recipe called for a lot more dried fruit and nuts, used only peanut butter versus the coconut butter-peanut butter-tahini mixture, and called for puffed rice instead of puffed millet. I didn't want to go to the grocery for all those ingredients, so I ad-libbed with what was in my cupboard. Bump up the protein content by adding protein powder or more nuts.

1/2 cup dates
1/2 cup multi-colored raisins
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1/3 cup toasted sesame seeds
1/4 cup trail mix (seeds, nuts, dried cranberries)
4 cups puffed millet
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup palm sugar
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 pinch salt

Combine dates, raisins, chocolate chips, sesame seeds, and trail mix in the bowl of a food processor; pulse until evenly chopped. Transfer mixture to a large bowl; stir in millet and oats.

Mix coconut oil, palm sugar, peanut butter, tahini, and honey together in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high until mixture is bubbling, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes. Stir in vanilla and almond extracts. Pour peanut butter mixture over millet mixture; stirring or using your hands until evenly coated.

Line a 9x13-inch baking dish with enough plastic wrap to go over edges as pictured above. This will help with easier removal. Pour millet mixture into the prepared dish. Firmly press mixture into dish using the back of a spatula. Wrap the plastic wrap over the top of bars and press down. Refrigerate until solid, at least 2 hours. Cut into small squares using a bench scraper/chopper. Store in refrigerator to keep solid.


Mediterranean Pita Pizza

I had it in my head all day last week that I was going out for pizza that night for dinner. I had the specific pizza in mind - mortadella on a perfectly crispy-chewy flatbread topped with arugula. Thoughts of sitting at the bar with a nice martini or glass of red wine were making me type faster at work. Pizza. Wine. Open windows. Crowded restaurant. Formula for a perfect evening in my book.

I gathered my two armloads of bags, put on the walking shoes, and stepped outside to find it was much chillier than it had been earlier in the day. So I pulled a wrap out of my gym bag to start the walk home. I would have to go home first to change into warmer clothes.

You know how some days it seems to take twice as long to get home? It happened that day...and my commute is always the same: a half hour. Being a walking commuter, traffic never influences the time. So it was just my mental traffic jam that made my feet feel like lead. My bags started feeling like sacks of flour. Pizza seemed so far in the horizon I couldn't even see it. Until...

...I realized this scene, minus the crowded restaurant part, could be created at home. I had pita bread, a freezer full of cheese, artichoke hearts, olives, feta, and wine. This could work. Italian restaurant, home-version. So the Mediterranean pita pizzas materialized. Within 20 minutes I was seated, drinking wine, and enjoying a crisp and hearty pizza.

I taught myself a lesson that night: things in life often materialize in different ways than planned and can been just as good if not better. And 3 out of 4 is pretty good.

Mediterranean Pita Pizza
2 servings

There are two secrets in this recipe. The first secret is a quick way to give garlic a semi-roasted flavor and texture. The second secret is to slit the pita bread and stuff it whatever you like for a double-loaded pizza.

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 pita bread
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and chopped
1/4 cup green olives, sliced
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

Preheat oven or toaster oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silicon mat.

Mix garlic and olive oil together in a microwave-safe bowl; season with salt and pepper. Microwave in 20 second intervals until garlic is sizzling and fragrant, about 1 minute.

Carefully slice the corner of each pita bread horizontally as pictured above. Spoon some of the garlic-olive oil inside each pita; sprinkle a little mozzarella cheese into the inside. Close pitas.

Brush the remaining garlic-olive oil on the top of each pita bread; top with mozzarella cheese, artichoke hearts, olives, and feta cheese.

Bake in the preheated oven until pita bread is almost crispy and cheeses are melted, about 10 minutes. Turn on the oven's broiler and broil pizzas until cheeses are lightly browned and bubbling, 1 to 3 minutes.