Sweet Dumpling Squash with Yogurt Sauce and Pomegranate Molassas

Sweet Dumpling Squash-A Stack of Dishes

 On my desk I have a teeny tiny brass Buddha. It sits just above my keyboard and so it catches my eye several times a day. Most days I shift it back and forth out of my way, but then there are the days when we share a real moment. This tiny Buddha, with it’s quiet wisdom, reminds me that nothing stays the same, and I have no control over any of it. Of course I love to think that I do, or even better, I get all proud of myself when I feel like I do.

Nothing has gotten my wheels turning like the election results last week. The bitter divide between people is astonishing to me. I am struggling to understand how that can be. I believe in differing opinions, and I like to think my perspective is pretty keen, but I am just shocked at how far apart so many of us are.

My partner and I had an interested dinner last week with a friend who voted for Donald Trump. She’s a smart, educated woman, and btw- doesn’t always vote Republican (in fact, she voted for Obama). So I was fascinated to hear her give her point of view. I have to say it was an amazing discussion. One point she made several times was to ask that we put ourselves in the opposing shoes. With her guidance I was able to understand her perspective, and have respect for her and her decision. Of course, I still disagree, but I was left thinking about all the things I don’t know, or don’t fully understand.

Cut Sweet Dumpling Squash- A Stack of Dishes

I have to admit I remain anxious about a man who, to my experience, has shown such volatile leadership manners. Let’s be honest, he’s got a lot of learning to do, and so does the rest of the world, as we get to fully understand what this man is all about.

Meanwhile, I try to get comfortable with change and upheaval. It brings me back to the core. I am so glad that Thanksgiving is next week. I am looking forward to spending time with people I love. There will be hugs, there will be laughter, there will be good food. I find my solace at the stove and gatherings around a dining table, always have.

Peace to all of you my dear ones. 

Where would we be without each other?

Sweet Dumpling Squash- A Stack of Dishes

Roasted Acorn Squash with Grilled Tofu and Quinoa {And My New Approach to Change}

Welcome to the New Year! I too have joined the masses of the “New Year, new me” campaign. I will not bore you with my enthusiastic promises and misty eyed visions of the improved me- but rather I wanted to share with you my new approach.

Are you like me? I get all jazzed up and rally myself to take on my new improved way of life. I start quick out of the box, full of determination and vigor, and then in short order start stumbling and tripping, and eventually face plant into a heap. The result is another year goes by and nothing has changed. *sigh*

So now that I know what doesn’t work, I decided to try a new approach. The truth be told I’ve been incorporating my new concept since my last birthday, 2 months ago, and it’s been working very well. The inspiration for this really came from my pal, Winnie, from Healthy Green Kitchen. The idea is not to attempt a total makeover- but to focus on one small positive thing I can do for myself, at least once a week. If I can add one positive small shift a week, by the end of the year I would have made 52 easy and gentle improvements. Isn’t that an amazing thought?!!

I say banish self control! Do away with the struggle and the guilt!

*Just do one small good and nice thing for yourself a week* Now isn’t that so much nicer? And even if I don’t compile 52 changes, at least I’m moving in the right direction.

To give an example: I have reduced the amount of sweeteners in my latte and drinks by a bunch. No real science, I’ve just dialed it down by a small amount and I continue to do that each week. The result is I have lowered my sweetness threshold without my really noticing. I’m a little concerned about putting chemicals into my body, as well as natural sugar, but I really love sweet so much! So a smidge of change over time and now I am at about half of what I was consuming 2 months ago.

Another small change I’ve made is to eat one or two more pieces of fruit a week- in my case specifically, citrus. In the past I would run out and fill a beautiful bowl of fruited bounty, all gung-ho about it. The result would be a slow degradation of my display into a wrinkly and mossy science project. The worst part is the double guilt that the sad display taunts me with- both the failed attempt at my new “way” and the terrible waste of good food.

Instead I’ve taken to buying one or two oranges and then I eat them! I don’t keep them in a pretty bowl on the counter, because it turns out I like mine cold. I perch them on the shelf in the fridge so they are right there when I open the door. This way, when I go foraging for that afternoon pick-me-up snack, my orange is right there for the grabbing.

They say that it takes 3 weeks to create a new habit and I can attest that this is true for me.

The recipe I have for you today is a delicious and healthy meatless meal. I love this dish and often make several at a time and freeze them. They reheat beautifully. The squash is Vitamin A rich, there is great protein in the quinoa and tofu, and there are healthy complex carbs and lovely fiber.

I’ve gotten word back that not everyone is keen on quinoa or can readily find it. Feel free to switch it with Amaranth- HA! just kidding-That’s another grain I’ll be getting to in the near future- You can exchange any other grain or rice that you prefer, and leftovers are perfect.

Roasted Acorn Squash with Grilled Tofu and Quinoa
This dish looks complicated but it really is not. Make extra and freeze for another day.
serves 6
3 medium sized acorn squash
2c of cooked quinoa, or other grain of choice
half a package of firm tofu
1 stalk of celery, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
.25c red onion, diced
1 orange pepper, diced
6 handfuls of baby arugula
.25c pomegranate arils 
3T fresh lemon juice
.5c olive oil
and oil to sautee
Preheat oven to 350˚. Slice the squash in half, scrape out the seeds. Lightly coat the flesh with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt.
Place squash face down on a lined baking sheet and roast until the skin looks a little wrinkly and the flesh is soft. Depending on the size of the squash this should take about 35-40 minutes. When cool slice into quarters- you will have 12 pieces in all.
Remove tofu from the package and place onto a clean kitchen towel and press firmly to release some of the moisture. You can also place a plate on top of the tofu with a heavy object and leave for a few minutes to press out the liquid.
Heat a grill pan and lightly oil. Slice the tofu into quarter inch slices and grill on each side. Remove from the heat and cut into small dice.
In a sautee pan warm some oil on medium high heat. Add the garlic and sautee for 2-3 minutes to release the fragrance. Add the onions, celery and peppers and sautee for just another few minutes leaving the vegetables tender crisp.
Transfer the vegetables and the tofu into a large bowl and add the quinoa. Gently stir to combine. Add S&P to taste.
Mix the lemon juice and oil to make a dressing. Add a few tablespoons into the quinoa mixture then use the rest to dress the arugula.
Lay down a nice layer of arugula for each serving, top with the squash and then fill with the quinoa. Finally sprinkle the pomegranate arils over the top and serve 2 quarters per person.

The Amazing Delicata Squash Served With Grilled Steak and Espresso Vinegar

The gorgeous colors of fall. Golden Delicata squash sautéed to perfection.

Delicata is the perfect name for this lovely squash. It’s typically smaller than most robust fall squash, around 5-6″ in length, and it has a beautiful yellow color contrasted with dark green stripes. A fashion maven as well as a delight.

And it gets better- the skin is so fine that there is no need to peel! Taking a knife to a tough skinned fall squash can be a wrestling match sometimes, and that alone can be enough of a deterrent for me to just skip it altogether. The sweet delicata is my new best squash friend. Easy to slice, no need to peel, no need to lug some monster squash home from the market- and is just as bit delicious and healthy.

I tossed mine into a pan and they were done in just a few minutes. No need to pull out a baking sheet and roast, just a simple sautee and they are ready to serve. Delicata is also more delicate in taste too. I like my squash with a little bit of sweetness to it, so I added just a small touch of honey into the pan and finished with a few sprigs of fresh thyme.

Steak grilled to perfection is splashed with some espresso vinegar.

To accompany my squash I pan grilled off some sirloin steaks. The seasoning I kept to the classic, simply lots of salt and fresh ground black pepper. For the finish I splashed on some yummy espresso balsamic vinegar that I purchased last weekend when I was visiting my Mother in Greenport. There is a new store out there right on Main St. called Vines and Branches. It’s a gorgeous store stocked with rows and rows of flavored olive oils and balsamic vinegars. Both regular dark and white balsamic vinegars are infused with some amazing flavors such as cranberry pear, tangerine and juniper berry. Mother, daughter Olivia, and I circled around the shop and taste tested tiny sips of vinegar. Sounds like an odd thing to do to take vinegar straight, but they were all pretty delicious just like that! Needless to say, I walked out with a small armload that I just couldn’t resist.

The dark espresso vinegar I used on the steak has a deeply intense coffee flavor. Startling and fantastic! The little bit of the sweetness from the vinegar mellows the bitter edge of the espresso and the acidity adds the right touch of zing for the beef. They do ship, so be sure to check out their site.

It doesn’t take much to add a little something extra to a standard dish and elevate it to a place that you wouldn’t have imagined. However, if you’re not inclined to try the espresso vinegar- try a splash of traditional dark balsamic vinegar- or just leave it out altogether. A good steak is a good steak, and there ain’t nothing wrong with that.

Delicata Squash and Perfection Grilled Steak w/ Espresso Vinegar
It took me only 15 minutes to get this meal to the table. The squash sautés quickly as the meat is grilling.  A side of polenta is a nice addition if you’re looking for a starch.
serves 4
2 average sized delicata squash
2 cloves garlic
2T honey or brown sugar
2T olive oil
3T water
4-6 sprigs of fresh thyme
Maldon salt to finish
4 4-6oz sirloin steaks, ~1″ thick, set out 30 minutes before cooking
Preheat a grillpan on the stovetop on medium high for 10-15 minutes.
Generously season the meat with salt and fresh ground black pepper.
Place the meat on a greased grill pan. Allow to grill for 5 minutes untouched. Then flip and grill another 5 minutes for medium rare. Add another 2 minutes for medium and 4-5 for well done.
After removing from the grill let the meat rest on the cutting board for a few minutes to allow the juices to settle into the meat.
Meanwhile, while the meat is grilling you can prepare the squash.
Wash the squash and slice in half. Scrape out seeds and slice into .5″ half rounds.
In a large frying pan add olive oil and swirl around to coat pan set on medium heat. 
Crush and chop garlic and add to the pan and sauté for 1 minute. Toss in squash and arrange so all pieces have contact with bottom of the pan.
After about 3 minutes add water, thyme and honey and cover pan. Allow the squash to steam until the water has evaporated.
Remove the cover and shake pan to keep the squash from sticking and burning. Flip after 2 minutes. If the pan gets too hot and starts to burn, add a little more water to the pan.
The squash will turn a little translucent when done. Do not overcook to mush. 
To serve, slice the meat and arrange on plates. Splash with vinegar. Add the squash to the plate and sprinkle with a nice healthy pinch of maldon salt.