Saturday, December 22, 2012

Acorn Squash Halves

I like acorn squash because it comes ready to eat in its own little "bowl".  It makes for an interesting presentation on your dinner table. You can make one squash half per person (which is what I do because I looooooooove me some acorn squash) or you can cut the roasted halves in half when serving so that one whole squash will serve four people. The choice is yours.

  • 1 acorn squash
  • grapeseed oil or melted coconut oil
  • 1 Tbsp clarified butter, divided (or you could substitute additional coconut/grapeseed oil if you don't do dairy)
  • 2 tsp agave nectar honey, divided
  • palm sugar
  • salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Slice the acorn squash in half, lengthwise, from stem to end. Use a sturdy spoon to scoop out the seeds and innards. Take a sharp knife and score the inside several times.
  3. Brush the exposed squash meat with grapeseed or coconut oil to prevent burning. Fill each inner cavity with 1/2 Tbsp butter, 1 tsp agave honey, and 2 generous pinches of palm sugar. Sprinkle some salt and pepper, to taste. (You could even spice it up a bit more by sprinkling some cinnamon, ground cloves, or nutmeg as well.)
  4. Place squash cut-side-up in a baking dish filled with 1/2" water. Roast in the oven for about 1 hour - 1 hour 20 min. The squash should be very soft, the top browned. Halfway through baking, spoon the sweet buttery sauce over the squash meat to distribute the flavors.
  5. Serve one half for each person, or cut the halves in half, taking care to split the buttery sauce between each half.

I like to use my large serrated knife to cut squash.

Scoop out the innards, just like you would for a pumpkin.

Don't forget to score your halves with a knife before filling!
(I always forget and wind up having to cut through butter and
sticky honey right before baking.)

And yup, forgot to score the squash. Gotta do it now.
Don't judge me.

Very important to fill your baking dish with water
so the squash stays moist and doesn't burn.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Chicken and Bits Soup

Sorry it's been a while since I posted. Things got pretty busy around here after the storm. I also lost the memory card to my camera which had hundreds of food pictures on it, so I have to re-make those recipes in order to get the photos. Boooooo.
As we get deeper into winter, I find myself gravitating more towards some nice warm soups. I re-worked my classic chicken soup recipe into what you see here. This soup is quickly becoming a favorite of mine. It has pretty much the same ingredients, but the main difference is the texture.
Whereas the classic chicken soup has large chunks of veggies giving it a rustico feel, all the veggies in this version are finely diced. (Hence the name - Chicken and Bits!) When I took that knife skills class a few months ago, the chef instructor talked a bit about texture and how it can affect the overall experience of food. So one night while making chicken soup, I got carried away with the knife and wound up dicing everything up tiny. By merely changing the texture of the soup, I experienced this recipe a whole new way. (Needless to say all that dicing took a while, so the second time around I used the food processor to cut down on some of the prep.)
  • 8 - 10 cups chicken stock
  • 6 - 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 3 sundried tomatoes, finely diced
  • 4 carrots, minced
  • 4 sticks celery, minced
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • a few large handfulls of spinach, minced 
  1.  In a large stockpot, combine chicken stock, chicken thighs, diced onion, and diced sundried tomato. Season the soup generously with salt and pepper, to taste. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the onions are translucent and the chicken is cooked through. 
  2. Prepare the carrots and celery by pulsing in the food processor until minced. You can also put the spinach in the food processor, or mince it manually with a knife, but keep it separate as you won't add the spinach until the end.
  3. Add in the carrots, celery, thyme and rosemary (NOT THE SPINACH). Let simmer until the veggies are soft. At this point, the soup will look pretty liquidy and devoid of "stuff". You may panic and want to add more vegetables, but fear not. Once you get to the end it will be thick and hearty, I promise!
  4. Remove the chicken thighs to a plate and shred with a knife and fork. Return the shredded chicken to the pot and add in the minced spinach. Let cook another minute or so until the spinach is wilted.
Tips for Variations:
  1. If you do dairy, sprinkle a little grated parmesan cheese in the soup when serving.
  2. Introduce other veggies like zucchini (diced up, of course), or switch out the spinach with escarole.
  3. Stir in a little cauliflower rice for even more hearty texture.

I used my knife skillz to dice the onion,
but this can go in the food processor, too.

Food processor... such a time saver!

Looking a little thin at this point, but it will be awesome.

The chicken should be tender enough to pull apart with
a fork and butter knife - or even your hands.

Still looks kind of thin without the spinach in there...

Then... BOOM!
Once the spinach goes in, the soup immediately thickens up.

mmmm... bits