Friday Faves

IMG_4132{post-halloween indulgences}

Happy first week of November! What are you up to this weekend? I have a family birthday party tonight, and my good friends’ housewarming party tomorrow….two excuses to do a little fall baking and perhaps sangria-making! Trying to soak up these crisp, sunny fall days before they turn into the rain we know is coming. Hope you have a lovely Friday ~ some links and pics, if you’re interested:

  • How delicious does this apple cider sangria sound?
  • Adele is back! (I’ve missed her).
  • Making these tonight for a children’s birthday party.
  • Can’t wait to binge-watch Aziz Ansari’s new show!
  • Should I ask for these for my birthday? (These are cute too, and on sale!)

IMG_4047{kabocha squash and ricotta toasts – more delicious than they look}

IMG_4216{red cups are here! (although apparently the “real” holiday cups debut next week?)}

IMG_4215{can’t wait to read this}

IMG_4218{cutest little pumpkin and little(r) ladybug!}

IMG_4217{and a bonus photo, just because – such mean parents and auntie!}

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Smitten Kitchen’s Spaghetti Squash Tacos with Black Beans and Queso Fresco

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I’ve had my Smitten Kitchen cookbook for almost three years now, and these tacos have been on my to-make list since the day I got it. Smitten Kitchen is one of my very favorite blogs, as I’ve probably mentioned at least a few (hundred) times already.  We had been anticipating her book for months before it finally came out in October of 2012, and I was certain I would cook my way through it immediately. But I guess life (and keeping up with her blog recipes) got in the way, as I just did a quick tally and realized that out of well over 100 recipes, prior to this one I had only made eight. Eight! In three years!

They’ve all been delicious – corn risotto-stuffed poblano peppers, white bean and swiss chard pot pies, the pumpkin gingersnap cheesecake tart, perfect pie crust, cherry-almond galette, peach dumplings with bourbon hard sauce, apple cake, and blueberry cornmeal coffee cake – but eight seems like way too few considering there are about 10 times that on my to-make list. (And please note that six of the eight have been from the “sweets” section of the book – busted!). Along with her peach and sour cream pancakes (yum) and butternut squash and caramelized onion galette (double yum), these tacos were on the top of my to-make list, so when my cousin brought me three gorgeous spaghetti squash (squashes?) from her garden last week I knew exactly what to do with them.

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I love squash in mexican food – the Cactus Butternut Squash Enchiladas are my all time fave – so of course this recipe was calling my name. I also love the combination of black beans and squash (like in this soup or this casserole) – I don’t know exactly what it is about this particular combo, but somehow it’s one of those instances where the whole is better than the sum of it’s parts. And that is definitely the case with these tacos, as I find spaghetti squash on it’s own a little blah.

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Additional reasons I’ll be making this a lot this fall: it’s pretty healthy, and couldn’t be easier. It takes 40 minutes to roast the squash (although you could do it in less than half that time in the microwave), but aside from that it takes about ten minutes to throw everything together, so it’s the perfect weeknight meal. While the squash is cooking, whisk your lime juice together with the seasonings, open a can of beans (I warmed mine on the stove because I don’t love the idea of eating things straight out of a can, but you don’t have to so long as you drain and rinse them well), dice up a little onion, chop some cilantro, and crumble a bit of queso fresco or cojita cheese. Deb uses queso fresco (not only in her tacos but in the title of the recipe) but says you could also use cojita or feta – I used cojita because it’s my favorite, but the other two would be great as well (and less expensive!). Once your squash has finished cooking and has cooled slightly, use a fork to scrape it out of the skin into long, stringy spaghetti-like strands, toss it with the lime juice mixture, and you have a delicious and healthy meal ready to go. The tacos look gorgeous once assembled, and if you have leftovers (which you likely won’t; I did only because I doubled the recipe and was serving a small group), they’ll keep for a few days. I stirred any leftover beans and toppings into the remaining seasoned squash and will have yummy lunches for the next few days – leaving me more time to get to work on my SK Cookbook to-make list. I’m thinking pancakes for dinner tomorrow!

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One year ago: Roasted Tomato Basil Soup
Two years ago: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies & Pumpkin Pecan Granola
Squash, previously: baked pasta, soup, salad (all butternut ~ good thing we’re finally mixing it up!)

Spaghetti Squash and Black Bean Tacos, from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Yield: 16 tacos; serves 4 generously or 8 modestly

3 lbs (1 large or 2 small) spaghetti squash
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 1 lime)
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
16 6-inch corn tortillas
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained well
4 ounces crumbled queso fresco, feta, or cojita cheese
1/4 cup finely diced red or white onion
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
Lime wedges and/or hot sauce for finishing, optional

Cook the squash, either in the oven or microwave. [To cook it in the oven, cut squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds (I forgot to do this and had to scrape them out once cooked) and roast cut side down in an oiled baking dish at 375 degrees F for about 40 minutes. To cook it in the microwave, pierce the squash all over with a sharp knife (cuts about an inch deep) to prevent it from bursting. Cook at high power for 6-7 minutes, then turn over and cook for another 8-10 minutes, or until it feels a little soft when pressed. Let cool for at least 5 minutes before cutting it open.] Once the squash has cooled slightly, scrape the flesh out with a fork, loosening and separating the strands of squash as you remove it from the skin.  Discard skin. [Side note: if you roast the squash, and remove the seeds before roasting, you can then roast the seeds as you would pumpkin seeds. Just rinse them and spread onto an oiled baking sheet, and sprinkle with salt and pepper, or salt and chili powder. Roast at 375 degrees for 7-10 minutes, stirring them about halfway through.]

In a small dish, whisk the lime juice with the chili powder, cumin, coriander, and salt. Pour over the squash strands and gently toss it all together. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.

To assemble the tacos, heat a dry skillet over medium-high heat and warm/slightly blister each tortilla, about 30 seconds per side (I sometimes run mine under the broiler, which always seems more efficient as you can do 6 or so at once – but occasionally I do burn them so perhaps Deb’s way is better). Fill each tortilla with two tablespoons squash mixture, two tablespoons black beans, two teaspoons crumbled cheese, and a couple pinches of onion and cilantro. Serve with lime wedges and hot sauce (if hot sauce is your thing – it’s not mine).

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Friday Faves

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{roasted delicata squash}

Happy Friday! What are you all up to? I’m looking forward to a low key weekend for the first time in awhile. We finally have some fall weather in the forecast, and I’m not going to lie, I’m kind of excited to have an excuse to wear my Hunter boots. And I have a ton of apple recipes I want to try, so rainy day baking sounds kind of heavenly. In the meantime, some fun links (recipes, movie reviews, online shopping) and pics to help get you a little closer to 5 pm:

  • I can’t do another butternut squash bowl recipe, but how good do these look?
  • Is it wrong that I want all of the flannel shirts at Madewell right now? Specifically this one, this one, and this one. (Funny story, I was in the store a couple days ago and asked the salesgirl where to find the one she was wearing, as it was my favorite. She told me she found it at the Goodwill for $1.50.  Not what I needed to hear when I was already feeling guilty about paying $80 for something I used to own ten of back in my wannabe-grunge days!!). I should probably order this one from Old Navy instead! New career – splurge/save editor for Us Weekly!?!
  • PSA – the Serena & Lily Friends and Family sale is on now – and it runs through Tuesday, which is perfect timing for me as that’s the day I find out if I’m getting my first niece or another nephew next March! (They have tons of amazing non-baby stuff too though!).
  • Can’t wait to dive into my copy of this book.
  • After literally not going to a movie theatre in what feels like years, I’ve been on a real movie kick lately. I’ve been seeing a ton of previews for The Judge – didn’t get a great review but I’ll probably go see it anyways.

photo-51{i’ve been looking forward to this book for a long time (also, how great is this picture?)}

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{i’m obsessed with these cookies}

photo 4{did you know that when you order any makeup or skincare item from nordstrom.com, you get to select three samples (from about 12 options) to arrive with your purchase? I ordered a new face wash the other week and chose fun samples of la mer moisturizer, la prarie eye and lip cream, and the new jo malone scent – jo malone because i love keeping the sample sizes in my purse; the first two because I could never afford them in real life}

photo-50{sweetest little guy!}

Friday Faves

photo 1 {stocking up on fall faves from trader joe’s}

Happy first fall Friday! I hope everyone has exciting plans for the weekend, ideally involving apple picking or a tailgate.  I’m attempting both – Husky game tomorrow, Honeycrisp picking on Sunday. Can’t wait to make some applesauce (and probably a crisp or two). The forecast is 75, but I might still be tempted to wear a flannel shirt and/or a plaid scarf. In the meantime, some highlights from my week and fun links from around the web. Wishing you all a wonderful weekend!

  • So excited for Lena Dunham’s book, which comes out on Tuesday. These little advice videos are hilarious.
  • How to cook brussels sprouts – just in case anyone needs a refresher.
  • This article makes me want to start a book club where we actually read books.
  • I think I might need this dress.
  • Big sale at J. Crew this weekend! Additional 40% off of sale items – I got a couple cute fall tops for myself, and some coordinating outfits for Cooper and his little cousin!

photo 4 {love this WS candle}

photo-42 {one of my favorite columns, in book form}

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{love this whole line – and the scrub smells divine}

photo-40 {my best bud cooper with his best bud freddie}

Summer Squash and Zucchini Tart

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Happy Monday! I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend. And now we’re back to the grind (blah). In an effort to make our Monday morning a little less painful, let’s talk about tarts.  And by “tarts” I don’t mean the fruit kind – which feel like dessert – I mean the cheese and veggie kind, which feel like something you can eat for/before dinner rather than having to wait until after.

I made this tart for the first time a few years ago, pre-blog.  Pre-Instagram, even, which is tragic, because it makes for really pretty pictures (and we all know I love me some Instagram food pics). It’s the perfect thing to make if you have a pile of squash and/or zucchini laying around from an overly ambitious farmers market splurge, or puff pastry icing over in the back of your freezer.  I had both, which is what inspired me to throw this together the other night.

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Your zucchini/squash slices will look prettier if you slice them with a mandoline, but if you don’t have one just slice them as thin as possible by hand. I suspect you could also use a food processor with the slicing blade here, but your squash would have to be skinny enough to feed through the top so I’m not sure how it would work out (if you don’t have a mandoline and want to try it this way, let me know how it goes). You could always cut your squash in half lengthwise and it would still look gorgeous. Sometimes I go to a lot of effort (i.e. getting out my food processor, clearing off a space on the counter, cleaning it afterwards) to get out of even a little bit of work (slicing a zucchini). The advantage here, though, is that the squash will cook better the thinner it’s sliced.

The ricotta filling is simple and delicious, and can be tweaked any way you like. You could use more parmesan, or omit it all together. You could add the feta in here in addition to the topping, or in lieu of. Same with the parsley and lemon – leave it in or leave it out. I might have added the basil here too if I had thought of it (yum).  I love the parsley and lemon, though, as they really brighten up the filling and work well the the zucchini and squash.

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If you haven’t used puff pastry a lot before, this part might look a little daunting, but I promise you it’s really not. The best tip I can give you for working with puff pastry is to allow yourself enough time for it to defrost (either overnight in the fridge or for at least an hour on the counter – the package will give you more detailed instructions). The few times I’ve had issues with it, it’s been due to either pastry that’s still frozen, or pastry I let sit out too long that’s gotten gummy.

Once it’s (properly, and not overly) defrosted, simply unfold the square of pastry onto parchment and roll it into whatever shape you’d like (rectangle or bigger square). I find it’s easiest to roll it directly onto the parchment, but you can always roll it out on the counter and then slide it onto your cookie sheet if you think you can manage. Mine looks deformed regardless, but I’d like to think that had I not been rushing I could have rolled it into a perfect rectangle and it would have stayed that way.

Once you have your pastry rolled out into the shape you want, fold over the edges to form a crust and then “score” the pastry.  You technically don’t have to fold over the edges, but I like to as it gives the tart more of a crust (since mine never turn out quite as pretty as they do in the video!). Poke holes over the inside crust with a fork, line with more parchment, and fill with pie weights to keep it from rising.

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After twenty minutes in the oven, take the pastry out, remove the parchment and pie weights, and press down the inside crust if necessary (it will still rise a bit). Cover with the ricotta mixture and arrange your squash and zucchini slices on top. I like to alternate between the zucchini and summer squash, but you can do it any way you like. Twenty more minutes in the oven (longer if your squash slices are thicker or don’t look a little shriveled), then remove the tart and brush with butter (or olive oil), sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook for five minutes more, until toasty. Garnish with feta, parmesan, basil, and/or whatever else you like. I like to serve this as an appetizer, but it’s perfect with a salad as a light lunch or dinner too.  It’s great warm or room temperature, but I love it cold. 

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Zucchini/summer squash, previously: Summer Squash and White Bean SautéZucchini and Ricotta GaletteCarrot Zucchini Muffins 

Tarts, previously: Leek and Swiss Chard

One year ago: Black Bean and Couscous Salad

Summer Squash Tart

Serves 6 a side, 8-10 as an appetizer 

1 sheet frozen puff pastry
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 small zucchini
2 small yellow squash
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese (plus more for garnish)
1 egg, lightly beaten
Small handful chopped parsley
Zest of one small lemon
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
Small handful basil, torn or julienned

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Cut a piece of parchment paper into a rectangle that will fit on your cookie sheet and sprinkle it with flour (you could use a silpat sheet here if you had one). Roll your pastry out on the floured parchment into a rectangle just smaller than the parchment. Fold the edges of the pastry over to form a thicker crust, and then with a small paring knife score a one-inch border within the crust (being careful to not cut through the pastry). Carefully transfer your pastry crust, on the parchment, onto the baking sheet.  Use a fork to prick small holes all over the bottom of the pastry, line with another sheet of parchment paper, and cover with pie weights.  Bake for 20 minutes, or until the edges are puffed and golden brown.  Remove the pastry from the oven and let cool.  Remove pie weights and top parchment.

Thinly slice the zucchini and squash (ideally with a mandoline, but by hand is fine if you don’t have one).

In a small bowl, mix together the ricotta, 1/4 cup parmesan, egg, parsley, and lemon zest.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Spread mixture over the pastry shell and arrange the zucchini and squash slices over the top. Return to the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes.  Remove and brush the tart with the melted butter.  Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper and return to the oven for 5-10 minutes, until the crust and veggies are golden brown. Remove from oven and sprinkle with the feta cheese and additional parmesan.

Let tart cool at least 10-15 minutes.  It can be served immediately after cooling, or later at room temperature or cold.  Garnish with basil before serving.

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Summer Squash and White Bean Sauté {and a new source for recipe inspiration}

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I’ve been on a roll lately with grocery shopping on Sunday nights and then prepping lots of healthy meals and snacks for the week (this is exciting because there are times where I can go for weeks without setting foot in a grocery store, and end up eating most meals at Starbucks and/or the wine bar in my building). No matter how exhausted I am after a busy weekend, it’s so worth it to drag myself to the grocery store – I love waking up on Monday knowing that I have everything I need for my green smoothie, a lunch already packed, and dinner when I come home – so I’m that much less likely to go to happy hour (or at least, less likely to order a pizza at happy hour).

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My cousin Clare sent me this recipe on Friday, along with the suggestion to sign up for kitchendaily.com. They send you an email with recipe ideas every morning, and you can customize your account so that the recipes are based on your food preferences/dietary needs/number of people you’re cooking for. Perfect for those of us who are always on the lookout for fun new recipes or inspiration.

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I modified the recipe a little – I have a hard time buying regular tomatoes these days, when grape tomatoes are so much easier to cut (or to pop into your mouth).

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Yum, cheese. This might be a little more than the recipe called for.

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Onions and garlic. If you were my friend Scott, now is the time where you would comment on my knife skills (or lack thereof). But in my defense, I was trying to hurry to get dinner on the table.

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I had to switch from my frying pan to a soup pot, which I think means I need to get a larger saute pan soon – this should be a one-dish meal.

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Summer Squash and White Bean Saute, from Kitchen Daily – their version here

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, halved and sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 medium yellow summer squash, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 15-ounce can white beans, rinsed well, or 1 1/2 – 2 cups dried beans, soaked overnight
2 medium tomatoes, chopped, or a couple handfuls grape tomatoes, cut in half
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/3 cup finely grated parmesan cheese

Directions:

1. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until onions begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add zucchini, squash, oregano, salt, and pepper and stir to combine. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until the vegetables are crisp-tender, about 3-5 minutes.

2. Stir in beans, tomatoes and vinegar; increase heat to medium and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in parmesan. Serve on top of pasta, rice, quinoa, cous cous, or any grain you like – I used barley, and then just stirred the leftover barley into the leftover beans and veggies for easy one-pot leftovers.

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Nutrition Information:

195 calories (54 calories from fat)
6 g fat (2 g saturated, 4 g monounsaturated)
600 mg sodium
25 g carbs
11 g protein
8 g fiber
5 mg cholesterol