Tag Archives: gluten free

Quinoa Stuffed Butternut Squash

Quinoa is an all around great for you food. It is an ancient grain, originally the primary nutrition source of the Incas, and has been popular the last 10-15 years–with good reason. It is naturally high protein. Unlike other vegetarian sources of protein, like lentils and other beans, which must be combined with something like rice in order to provide a complete protein, quinoa is one of the few grains that is a complete protein on its own. Although we are not vegetarian, there are many reasons why I try to reduce how often we eat meat, including environmental, economic and health concerns.

Quinoa is also a great source of fiber, iron, magnesium, essential amino acids and other nutrients. It is naturally low fat, low calorie and gluten free. I serve quinoa as I would rice, along side fish, chicken or vegetable mains. It is also great mixed into salads. I love it most, however, mixed into stuffings and veggie burgers. Whenever making it (which I usually do simply, with just water in a rice cooker) I make extra so as to have leftovers.

This recipe is a twice baked butternut squash with quinoa and parmesan cheese mixed in. I made it super simple as I was juggling a squirmy little one. I would normally sauté an onion, at least, and maybe a carrot, some celery, garlic, etc. and mix it in. But it tasted surprisingly flavorful as is!

Quinoa Stuffed Butternut Squash Recipe

  • 1 large Butternut Squash (any winter squash will do)
  • 1 cup cooked Quinoa
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt, pepper, paprika and/or a seasoned salt

Preheat oven to 400° F. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Reserve the seeds and toast them for snacking (click here to read how.) Salt and pepper the squash and place on a baking sheet lined with a Silpat Non-Stick Baking Mat. Bake until soft, or when a fork is easily inserted, about 35-50 minutes, depending on the size of the squash.

Remove the squash from the oven. When cool enough to handle, scoop out most of the flesh into a bowl. Add the remaining ingredients, mix, and then refill the shells. Bake another 20-30 minutes, or until the stuffing is heated through.

Tips for Feeding Baby:

This is a great dish for babies. Even the earliest eaters (6-7 months) will enjoy the baked squash mixed with quinoa (reserve some for baby before mixing in the egg.) Quinoa on its own is impossibly messy, but mixed with squash it sticks together much better (and tastes better), especially for the independent babes who want to feed themselves. My daughter enjoyed this both with her hands and practicing her growing spoon and fork skills. We served her just the stuffing, while the presentation in the half shell of a squash is pretty enough for company!

Roast Butternut Squash and Vegetable Soup

The weather is definitely changing, even here in Southern California. I’m craving hot herbal tea, which I haven’t made in forever, and soups. I made this roast vegetable soup last night. It was perfect for lazy cooking on a chilly day. Most of the work is done by a hot oven and time. High heat converts the starches in the vegetables to sugar and the browning in the oven adds a complexity to the overall flavor.

I used a butternut squash in this recipe, along with other autumnal vegetables and fruit. But feel free to substitute anything you have on hand. I didn’t have parsnips, but they would also be great. This recipe is based on “orange soup”, what we called a curried squash soup my mom used to make when we were young.

Roast Butternut Squash and Vegetable Soup Recipe

  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 1 yam or sweet potato
  • 1-2 large carrots
  • 1 onion
  • 3-4 large cloves of garlic
  • 2 apples
  • 1 quart of chicken or vegetable stock or broth
  • salt, pepper
  • cumin, curry powder, ginger powder, coriander, garam masala, etc.
  • a tiny touch of cinnamon (don’t use too much or it will taste like pumpkin pie)

Optional garnishes:

  • cilantro, basil, or other fresh herb
  • toasted squash seeds (recipe follows)
  • coconut yogurt, kefir, coconut milk, or creme fraiche
  • black lava salt or truffle salt

Preheat oven to 400-425° F. Prep the vegetables: cut the butternut squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Reserve the seeds for toasting. Roughly chop the carrots and onion. Cut and core the apple. Skins can be left on everything. Leave the yam or sweet potato whole. Don’t peel the garlic.

Roast in the oven until tender, approximately 40-45 minutes. (I usually put the garlic in a little later as it cooks faster.)

When cool enough to handle, peel the skins off and transfer to a large pot. Add the quart of stock or broth, plus any water as needed to cover the vegetables. Bring up to a boil and then down to a simmer. Add the salt, pepper and spices to taste. Simmer for 25-30 minutes, or until all the vegetables are very soft. Using a stick blender, puree until somewhat smooth.

Serving suggestions: Top with coconut yogurt or something else creamy. Sprinkle on the toasted squash seeds. I paired the soup with toast spread with avocado. A green salad would also be nice.


Toasted Butternut Squash Seeds

Pumpkin seeds are the most famous squash seeds for toasting. Perhaps because pumpkins are so big the yield is “worth it.” But really any squash’s seeds can be toasted and eaten. We found the butternut squash seeds to be delicious!

Preheat a toaster oven or an oven to 325-300° F. Since I was roasting the veggies at high heat I used the toaster oven for the seeds. My toaster oven is also easier to see into, which is important for keeping an eye on the seeds.

Separate the seeds from the strings and flesh. Let them sit in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes to help rinse them off. Dry with a clean dish towel. Spread the seeds on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle with a good amount of salt. I also used cayenne and black pepper.

The seeds will be done when they are done. Sorry. It could be 5 minutes, or it could be 20. Check them and give them a stir periodically. The should be turning darker and getting crispy.

Serve over the squash soup, salads or (our favorite) just snacked on!


Chocolate and Goat Cheese Truffles

I love chocolate. And these chocolate and goat cheese truffles are one of my favorites.

Goat cheese and chocolate truffles

Goat cheese sounds like an odd ingredient to have in truffles. But having made these at a time when traditional truffles, made with cream and butter, were in my home, I can honestly say that these are a billion times better. The cheese balances the sweetness of the sugar and compliments the richness of the chocolate with a subtle tang. If using a mild cheese, it almost disappears into a “secret ingredient.”

Since I have been making homemade chèvre, I measure and reserve 6 oz before rolling logs, however, “store bought is fine.”

I usually cut a little extra chocolate to allow for “shrinkage” from nibbling.

I do recommend paying a little extra for quality chocolate. When making a recipe, such as this, where chocolate is such a high percentage of the finished product, you will really be able to taste the quality. How can you tell if your chocolate is good enough? If you enjoy eating it straight, then it will work.

Chocolate and goat cheese truffles

Tip: If you don’t have a double broiler to melt the chocolate, use a stainless steel bowl that fits well over a pot.

Chocolate and goat cheese truffles

Whip the cheese with a little powdered sugar.

Goat cheese and chocolate truffles

Add in the melted and cooled chocolate.

Goat cheese and chocolate truffles

Mix until well combined.

Chocolate and Goat Cheese Truffles

Let the mixture chill in the fridge for an hour.

Chocolate and Goat Cheese Truffles

 Form walnut-sized balls with a spoon and then roll in shifted cocoa powder.

Goat cheese and chocolate truffles

Goat cheese and chocolate truffles

Here’s my idea of a perfect dessert:

Goat cheese and chocolate truffles

Check out Parsonage Village Vineyard for more of my favorite wines.

Chocolate and Goat Cheese Truffles Recipe

Recipe from foodnetwork.com

  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 6 ounces fresh (mild) goat cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup sweetened cocoa powder, sifted

In the top of a double boiler, or in a metal bowl set over a pot of simmering water (make sure the water does not touch the bowl), melt the chocolate, stirring until it is smooth. Set the melted chocolate aside to cool for a few minutes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

In a bowl whisk together the goat cheese, sugar, and vanilla until it is light and fluffy. Whisk in the melted chocolate until it is well combined. Chill, covered, until it is firm, at least 1 hour.

To form the truffles, take a heaping teaspoon of the chocolate/cheese mixture and lightly roll it into a ball with your hands. Roll the finished truffles in the sifted cocoa powder, set them onto a baking sheet lined with waxed paper, and chill until they are firm, about 30 minutes. The truffles can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Braised Short Rib Tagine

One of my favorite places to shop for meat in San Diego is Seisel’s/Iowa Meat. Generally when I shop I like to go in and see what’s good and on special. The butchers there are knowledgeable and I also like to get their recommendations on what’s tasty and a good value. The other day, these prime short ribs at a really low price caught my eye. Braised short rib is a restaurant dish my husband and I both like, and I wanted to give them a try.

I browsed a few recipes online. Some of them were a little complicated. Sorry, Tom Colicchio, they sound great, but I don’t have two days to make dinner or a week to hunt down the special cut. Sometimes I think some chefs share complicated recipes so that you get impressed, hungry and go to their restaurant instead of actually attempting to recreate them. The rest of them just seemed like variations on making a beef stew, so I just went into the kitchen, but not without misadventure. I had a dutch oven that I have been wanting to use, but nearly started a grease fire by having it on too high of heat. I had to improvise at the last minute, braising the short ribs in a tagine. Here’s what I came up with!

Braised Short Ribs: Step by Step with Pictures

Step 1: Gather your ingredients. In this case, carrots, celery, shallot, garlic and tomatoes. (You could substitute tomato paste for tomatoes and can use onions.) Oh! And red wine. (I have been having good luck lately with Trader Joe’s “Reserve” series of wines–usually $30 bottles sold for ~$10.)


Step 2: Depending on their size, plan on 2-3 ribs per serving. (Consult the butcher.) Season the meat with kosher salt and pepper. Put a dutch oven or heavy sauce pan on medium heat. (Do not do as I did and use high heat– I burnt the oil and nearly started a grease fire.)


Step 3: (If needed) Distract baby with a piece of celery. A trick I learned from a friend: celery is a natural teether. Left whole it is not as much of a choke hazard, but supervise, of course. Now is also a good time to do a quality control test of the wine.*


Step 4: Brown each side of the meat briefly (just until a fraction of an inch is browned) in a little bit of an oil appropriate for high heat. Be sure to get the “ends” seared too. Searing is thought to seal in moisture and the caramelization adds a depth of flavor.


Step 5: While the meat is being seared, chop the carrot, celery, shallot/onion, and garlic. Peel and chop the tomatoes.


Step 6: Remove the meat from the pan and place in a tagine or casserole dish with a lid. (Since I had a layer of scorched oil on my extremely hot dutch oven, I instead used a tagine, which Moroccans and other North Africans and Mediterraneans typically use to slowly braise meats and stews.)


Step 7: In the same pan, saute all of the vegetables, starting with the hardest first and ending with the tomatoes. Add 1 cup of red wine and let the alcohol cook out. Add 1 cup of beef, veal or chicken broth. (I had a veal broth in my cupboard I had been wanting to try.)


Step 8: Here is the step that will elevate the dish from simply a stew to fancy pants: Purée the sauce in a blender and then return to the pan. Continue to cook the sauce, until it reduces by half. Let the sauce build up a nice thickness on the bottom a few times and then scrape it up with a spatula and mix it in. Getting a nice dark sauce is key to mimicking the yummy intensity of restaurant dishes.


Step 9: Combine the sauce with the meat in your baking dish. Add herbs such as thyme, bay leaf and rosemary. Submerge the herbs in the sauce so they will infuse into it. Coincidentally, the marrow from the bones will also be leaking out and joining the sauce. Marrow is filled with nutrients and the one thing I craved while pregnant.


Step 10: Cover and bake at 350° for 3 hours. (Make sure your tagine is safe to go up to that high of heat. Some are more decorative and are meant for serving only.)


The meat literally fell off the bone on half of the ribs.


Enjoy with mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes or polenta; a green salad or veggie and a glass of the same red wine.


*When I studied Sociology in Spain, the problem of “borachas de la cocina” was discussed. Literally the feminine form of “kitchen drunks,” the term referred to the very serious issue of alcoholic housewives. For some reason the term always struck me as funny. Please be sure that alcoholism is nothing to laugh at, and send me a personal message for any help finding resources… but I do secretly like to reference las borachas de la cocina and giggle when I practice the tradition of drinking a glass of wine while cooking.