acorn squash with cranberry stuffing

lovely acorn squash with cranberry stuffing

With Thanksgiving in the U.S. only a few weeks away, I thought for the first installment of Slow Cooker Sunday a vegan-friendly stuffing would be perfect. I have a few friends south of the border who read my blog and who knows, maybe some of them have a vegetarian on their guest list. This stuffing is truly delicious, and could easily stand shoulder-to-shoulder with any of the best traditional recipes out there.

lovely acorn squash with cranberry stuffing

Ingredients you’ll need:

6 cups day-old, partly stale bread, cut into 1/2″ cubes (I used light rye in this version)
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup chopped celery (about 4 stalks)
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 tbspn olive oil
1 tbspn poultry seasoning
4 sprigs sage
2 cloves garlic
5 or 6 sprigs thyme
1 tspn pepper
1/2 tspn salt

lovely acorn squash with cranberry stuffing

Preparing the stuffing

1. In a large skillet, saute celery and onion in 1 tbspn olive oil. After a few minutes, add garlic and pepper. Simmer on low until celery is soft and onion is translucent.
2. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, combine bread cubes, poultry seasoning, thyme, sage, cranberries and walnuts. Stir in celery and onion.
3. Slowly add up to 1-1/2 cups vegetable broth, until bread is moistened but not clumpy.
4. Pack down into oiled crockpot.
5. Heat on high for 45 minutes, then reduce heat to low for 3 hours.

With Roasted Acorn Squash (optional)

If you’d like to serve this stuffing as a main dish, or offer a more complete meal to your vegetarian guest, try stuffing it into acorn squash. The combination of sweet from the squash and the savory stuffing go perfectly together.

1. Cut acorn squash in half lengthwise. Remove seeds.
2. Coat 1″ deep baking dish with olive oil. Add 1/2 cup vegetable broth.
3. Bake squash cut-side down ifor 40 minutes at 325 degrees F.
4. Remove from over. Turn over and stuff each half with 1 cup of stuffing.
5. Return to oven and bake for another 10 minutes or until stuffing becomes a little crusty on top.

lovely acorn squash with cranberry stuffing

Tanya Lea is a vegan-at-home cook who loves working with fresh, seasonal produce.
Her blog is tickleyourpantry.com

guacamole two ways

lovely guacamole

We are blessed to be friend with some Canadians who spent 15 years working and serving in Mexico. While they, they adopted a love for all things Mexican, including the food, and we were double blessed recently to be invited over for a fiesta with lots of scrumptious south of the border food on the menu. I was asked to bring guacamole, and with my hat in my hand (these folks know their Mexican food!) I prepared two different avocado dips, and would like to share the recipe with you below. You may only find avocados in your combo box from time to time, but you can find many of the other ingredients for delicious guacamole most weeks!

Smooth and Simple Guacamole

lovely guacamole

2 ripe avocados
juice of 1 small lemon
2 cloves lovely garlic
1 tsp kosher salt (or to taste)

1. Peel and pit your avocados and place the flesh in your food processor.

lovely guacamole

2. Peel 2 (or three if you really like garlic!) cloves of your lovely garlic. Add the cloves, the salt, and the juice of your lemon (being careful not to include the seeds) to your avocados in the processor.

lovely guacamole

3. Process until completely smooth. Taste and add more salt if needed.

Thick and Chunky Guacamole

lovely guacamole

2 ripe avocados
juice of half a lime
1 clove lovely garlic
2 green onions, white and green parts (not the middle, light green, woodier part, discard that)
1 small tomato
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp kosher salt (or to taste)
fresh cilantro (optional)

1. Peel and pit your avocado and place the flesh in a large bowl. Set aside.

lovely guacamole

2. On a chop board and with a good, sharp knife (watch those fingers!), dice the lovely garlic cloves (peeled first) and the whites of the green onions very fine. Add to avocados.

lovely guacamole

3. Dice the green parts of the onions and the tomatoes, but in larger pieces, more like pea-size, and add those to the bowl as well.

4. Add all of your seasonings, as well as the lime juice.

lovely guacamole

5. Stir all of your ingredients together with a spoon until they are evenly distributed. Next, use a potato masher to mash everything together.

6. When you’ve reached a good consistency, and the ingredients are well-married, taste and check for saltiness. If you are adding fresh cilantro, chop and fold in now.

Both guacamoles do well being prepared an hour or so ahead of time so they chill nicely and all the flavors of the citrus, vegetables, and spices have a chance to marinate. But if time is a wasting, you can serve them immediately! Guacamole is a fabulous and healthy dish that can be served as a garnish for any Latin American food or can be eaten as a dip with chips, pretzels, or raw veggies. Enjoy!

-Nicole Marsh-Mueller loves to cook locally and organically for her family and blogs at The Armchair Housewife

photo credit: Nicole Marsh-Mueller

bok choy

lovely bok choy

I am no expert in Eastern cuisine, and I am sure there are some lovely, elaborate bok choy recipes out there, but this is one I came up with that was super easy and tasted great. This is definitely going to be a new favorite of mine to help make home-made Chinese food meals seem more like the restaurant experience.

Easy Bok Choy
serves 3-4 as a side dish

1 head of Bok Choy
2 green onions
2-3 tablspoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons diced garlic
2 teaspoons dried ginger
1 tsp corn starch
1 tblsp soy sauce
1 tsp water

1. Remove the bottom core of the head of bok choy and give the stems a very good rinse, removing all the diry and sand that collects in the ribs and the greens.

lovely bok choy

2. Seperate the greens from the stems. Dice the stems into half-moons approximately ½ inch thick (see photo). There will be some greens still attached at the top portions of the stems- that is fine.

lovely bok choy

3. Dice your green onion, white and green parts, and garlic.

4. In a large saucepan, heat your sesame oil and saute your onion and garlic on medium heat for just a minute or two. Add the stem pieces of the bok choy, and sprinkle with your dried ginger. Saute, on medium heat, stirring frequently, about five minutes.

lovely bok choy

5. While the bok choy stems are sauteing, chop the greens but not too fine- they cook down quite a bit in the pan. After the stems have sauteed for five minutes, add the greens and stir in completely. I like to add about a tablespoon of water at this point just to help the greens wilt and not stick to the bottom of the pan.

6. While this greens and stems are cooking, in a small bowl combine your corn starch, soy sauce, and water, and stir until smooth.

7. Saute for about five more minutes until the stem portions are pretty tender, add your soy sauce mixture and stir well.

8. Saute on low heat for just a few minutes more, allowing the soy sauce to flavor the bok choy and the “sauce” it created to thicken just a bit.

lovely bok choy

As with many of these kinds of dishes, you could easily make this a one-pot meal by adding some protein like tofu or cooked chicken. Or serve this as a side dish the next time you are trying your hand at home-made Asian food. Enjoy!

-Nicole Marsh-Mueller loves to cook locally and organically for her family and blogs at The Armchair Housewife

photo credit: Nicole Marsh-Mueller

early summer saute

lovely saute

What’s great about the growing season kicking into gear is that you get to just open up your fridge and pick from a great green bounty, chop stuff up, and saute it in a pan with a bit of fat, a bit of acid, and a bit of seasoning, and you’ve got a fabulous dish. If you want to make it a meal, just add a bit of protein into the mix. The following is one such dish I whipped up this week from goodies in my local box, and you could easily make this a one-pot meal by adding cooked chicken or cannalleni beans.

Early Summer Saute
serves two as a side dish

lovely saute

1 tblspn butter or olive oil
1 tsp diced garlic
3 green onions
4 asparagus spears
4 mushrooms
1 zucchini
1 tsp dried basil (or fresh basil would be even better!)
juice of ¼ of a lemon
salt and pepper to taste
parmesan cheese (optional)

lovely saute

1. Dice your green onion, white and green parts included. In a large saucepan, saute your garlic and green onion your butter on medium low heat until the white part of the onion starts to get a little glassy.

lovely saute

2. While your onions are sauteing, slice your other veggies into nice bite-size pieces (see above photo).

lovely saute

3. Add your the asparagus, mushrooms, and zucchini to the pan. Sprinkle your basil evenly over your veggies and stir. Saute on medium heat for five minutes.

4. Add lemon juice and continue cooking until the veggies are tender-crisp, no more than 10 minutes all together.

lovely saute

Salt and pepper to taste to finish this easy early summer side dish, and if you have some real Parmesan cheese to shave on top, even better! Bon Appetit!

-Nicole Marsh-Mueller loves to cook locally and organically for her family and blogs at The Armchair Housewife

photo credit: Nicole Marsh-Mueller

jambalaya pasta

lovely jambalaya pasta

This is a great, very versatile recipe that brings in the flavors of Cajun cuisine but instead of serving it with the traditional rice, it is made as a pasta dish. The dish is versatile because as long as you keep the proportions more of less the same, you can change the vegetables and protein- you could use corn or okra instead of carrots and sweet bell peppers if you wanted to. In the same vein, instead of the hot Italian sausage and shrimp I use here, you could use chicken breast, a good quality veggie sausage, or even an equal amount of cooked beans, or any mixture of the above. Just about anything that you cook for an hour or two in this sauce is going to be tasty!

Note about shrimp: many people, including my husband, are particular about seafood. As such, I always prepare my shrimp separately for this dish and add it to the mix at the end.

Jambalaya Pasta
2 cups uncooked penne or other small pasta
1 tblsp olive oil
3 organic hot Italian (or any other) sausage
2 cloves garlic
1 large onion
1 carrot
1 parsnip
1 bell pepper
1 cup vegetable broth
1 large can tomatoes
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (not needed if you use hot Italian sausage)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp balsamic or red wine vinegar
1 ½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp maple syrup (optional)
½ cup organic cream

For the Shrimp:
10-15 medium shrimp
1 tablespoon butter
½ teaspoon Cajun seasoning

1. In a large saucepan, cook the penne in salted water until very al-dente. The pasta should still have bite to it as you are going to cook it in the jambalaya before serving.

lovely jambalaya pasta
lovely jambalaya pasta

2. Dice the onion, carrot, and parsnip together in a food processor or very fine by hand and set aside. Dice the bell pepper but leave it in larger chunks and set it aside.

3. Slice the sausage in 1 inch medallions. In a large dutch oven or pot, heat the olive oil on medium high heat. Add the the sausage medallions in a single layer and brown on both sides. Remove sausage and set aside.

lovely jambalaya pasta
lovely jambalaya pasta

4. In the remaining oil, sauce the onion/carrot/parsnip mixture with the bell pepper and the garlic on medium heat, stirring frequently, until onions become translucent.

5. Add the broth, and while the mixture comes to a boil, scrape the bottom of the pan to bring up all the browned bits from the sausage (this will give great flavor to the sauce).

lovely jambalaya pasta

6. Add the tomatoes, all the seasonings, Worcestershire sauce, maple syrup, and vinegar. Bring to a boil on medium heat for just a minute, adding the sausage back in at the boiling point. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for an hour, or even longer if you have time.

lovely jambalaya pasta

7. While the jambalaya is simmering, prepare your shrimp. Shell and devein your shrimp, and sprinkle with cajun seasoning. In a medium saucepan, melt butter and saute the shrimp on medium-high heat for just a few minutes, until the flesh is pink and opaque throughout. Set aside until serving time

8. In the last five minutes of simmering your jambalaya, add the pasta and cream to the sauce and stir well. If needed, top up the mixture with a little broth or water, so that the liquid just covers all the contents of the jambalaya.

lovely jambalaya pasta

When serving, plate your jambalaya and add your shrimp and garnish with sour cream. The only thing that makes this dish better is a nice loaf of crusty bread to eat with it. Enjoy!

-Nicole Marsh-Mueller loves to cook locally and organically for her family and blogs at The Armchair Housewife

photo credit: Nicole Marsh-Mueller

mexican beans and greens

lovely green beans

While our household is trying to eat more and more local and seasonal produce, it’s good every now and then to shake it up and let yourself enjoy a more varied selection of fruits and veg- especially when spring is so long in coming as it has been this year. Instead of our usual local box, this past week we treated ourselves to a combo box, which features such mouth-watering delights as oranges, kiwi, bananas (expect a recipe with these goodies soon!) and some lovely baby spinach. While I love baby spinach raw in a salad, I also love the flavor it gives when sauteed into a dish, and my wheels began turning on how I could best put these box of green gold to use.

lovely green beans

I love Mexican food. I lived in Arizona as a kid and my palette has never been lacking in fidelity to southwestern cuisine. We often eat dishes with lots of chili powder, cumin, and cayenne. Even our little girl enjoys our Mexican food, just with lots of sour cream and cheese to mellow out the flavors.

Mexican Beans and Greens
Makes 2-3 servings
1 Large carrot
1 medium onion
2 cups firmly-packed baby spinach leaves
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tsp minced garlic
1 cup cooked beans (any will do, I used a 6 bean medly in this version)

Spices:
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons dried oregano
½ teaspoon oregano
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cayenne (or to taste)

lovely green beans

1. Peel and shred your carrot and set aside.

lovely green beans

2. Assemble our spices in a small dish.

3. Peel and dice your onion very fine (I like to use my food processor). In a large saucepan, heat olive oil and butter over medium heat and saute onions and minced garlic for a few minutes, stirring frequently.

lovely green beans

4. Add spices to onions, making sure you spread them evenly over the pan so they are able to toast and become aromatic evenly.

5. Add your shredded carrot, mixing in well. Next add your spinach, and add just a tablespoon or two of water to the pan to help steam the spinach quickly and keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Saute the carrots and spinach until the spinach is sufficiently wilted.

lovely green beans

6. Add your cup of cooked beans, stirring in well. Saute until heated through.

lovely green beans

Serve with your favorite rice or other grain, with sour cream and fresh avocado to garnish. This is a great dish for little ones, I combine a scoop of the beans and greens, a scoop of rice, and a nice big dollop of sour cream in the food processor and pulse until desired consistency for baby. Enjoy!

-Nicole Marsh-Mueller loves to cook locally and seasonally for her family and blogs at The Armchair Housewife

photo credit: Nicole Marsh-Mueller

pita pizzas with mushrooms and fresh basil

 

lovely pita

I love quick lunch ideas, and I also love pizza. When I saw the gorgeous head of fresh, live basil in my local box this week, I started dreaming of tasty Italian dishes. When I saw we had more fresh Shitake mushrooms, I got thinking of how tasty those two things would be on a pizza pie! Making pizza dough from scratch is far from “quick”, and buying those pre-made crusts is a waste of money and take up too much room to store, in my opinion.

lovely pita

Solution? Pitas! If you have a brand of pita you enjoy, keep them in the freezer and they’ll be ready to act as personal pizza crusts when you need a healthy, quick meal. We love the whole wheat pitas we buy from Melitsa’s, they are restaurant quality and bake up soft and yummy.

Pita Pizzas

2 Whole wheat pizzas

½ -3/4 cup pasta sauce of choice (I like a premade tomato pesto for pizzas)

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

2 Tblspns butter

1Tblspn garlic, diced very fine

10 shitake mushrooms

6 large fresh basil leaves

salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

lovely pita

2. Slice your mushrooms nice and thin. Heat a small saucepan on medium heat and saute garlic in butter until butter just begins to brown. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, just for a few minutes (don’t overcook as they will also be baking in the oven).

lovely pita

3. Ribbon your basil leaves. (To ribbon, layer leaves on top of one another and roll tightly. Take a small, sharp paring knife and make quick, thin cuts to the rolled-up leaves, producing pretty basil “ribbons”).

lovely pita

4. Once your oven is ready, remove your pitas from the freezer. Sprinkle just a few drops of water on a baking sheet and place the pitas on top of the water drops (this helps keep them soft and not dried out). Put sauce to your liking on the pitas.

lovely pita

5. Put most of the cheese on the sauce, saving a few pinches to sprinkle on top of the toppings. Evenly distribute your sauteed mushrooms and garlic, as well as your basil ribbons, on the cheese, and cover with just a few shreds of cheese. Add some fresh ground pepper to taste.

lovely pita
lovely pita

6. Bake in oven for about 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted. I you like nice browned, bubbly cheese like we do, switch the oven to a medium broil for the last two minutes (but be careful you don’t burn your hard-made pizzas!). Serve immediately.

lovely pita

You may find, depending on your pita size and your appetite, that you really need more than one per person. They go great with a green salad or a bowl of soup. Enjoy!

-Nicole Marsh-Mueller loves to cook locally and seasonally for her family and blogs at The Armchair Housewife

photo credit: Nicole Marsh-Mueller

sesame stir-fry with shiitake mushrooms

 

lovely stir-fry

I was so excited to see some beautiful shitake mushrooms in this week’s local box. I started thinking of ways to prepare these little treasures, and a nice vegetable stir-fry jumped to the top of the list.

lovely stir-fry

Stir-frys are great and so incredibly versatile. They sort of like chilis in that you almost can’t mess them up. I prefer sesame oil and a good base of onions, garlic, and fresh ginger, but really as long as you have some oil, some veggies, and seasoning to your taste, you’ve got a stir fry in the making.

lovely stir-fry

As with salads, I don’t list quantities with my stir-fry recipes, because its really about who you’re making it for and what your preference is for proportion of ingredients. I could have made this stir-fry half mushrooms, but I was reluctant to use so many in one shot.

Sesame Stir-fry with Shitake Mushrooms

Sesame oil (3 Tablespoons for stirfy for two)
butter (a dollop)
soy sauce
Onion
Garlic
Fresh Ginger
Shiitake Mushrooms
Carrots
Water Chenuts
Celery
(any other veggies you like that cook quickly)
Cooked basmati rice

1.Dice the onion, garlic, and ginger together in your food processor or dice fine by hand.

2. Julienne or slice thin (I like to use a mandolin) your carrots, celery, water chesnuts, and any other veggies you want to add. Gently slice your mushrooms into thirds (any thinner and you’ll fall apart and you won’t be able to appreciate their delicious flavor and texture).

lovely stir-fry
lovely stir-fry

3. In a wok or appropriately-sized saucepan, heat your sesame oil with a dash of butter (the butter helps keep the burning point of the oil down and adds to the flavor)

4. Add your onion, garlic, and ginger mix to the oil once it’s hot and saute until onions become translucent.

lovely stir-fry

5. Add the rest of the veggies, add soy sauce to taste (about 2Tblsp for two servings), and cook on medium-high, stirring constantly, until the veggies are tender but not over-cooked.

6. When the veggies are tender, either mix in your rice before plating or serve alongside on the plate.

lovely stir-fry

I love to eat this with some yummy vegetable spring rolls and duck sauce. Enjoy!

-Nicole Marsh-Mueller loves to cook locally and seasonally for her family and blogs at The Armchair Housewife

photo credit: Nicole Marsh-Mueller

cream of potato and parsnip soup

 

lovely soup

Warm weather is coming, but there are still plenty of chilly days and nights left to enjoy a heary bowl of cream soup. With the potatoes, parsnips and cream, I was tempted to name this “Winter White” soup, but I didn’t dare use the “W” word now that we’re officially in Spring!

The great thing about soups is that its a good way to use up some of your veg if its not in its best state. Your taters and parsnips can be a bit soft and not-so-perfect and you can still get a fabulous soup out of them. Hope you enjoy my creation as much as we did!

Cream of Potato and Parsnip Soup
makes four to six servings

3 cups peeled, cubed potatoes

1 medium peeled, cubed parsnip

1 medium onion

½ to 1 clove garlic, to your taste (1 good size local box garlic clove will make this pretty garlicy)

2 Tblsp fat (bacon grease, olive oil, or butter)

1 tsp kosher salt

pepper to taste

1/3 cup dry white wine

2 ½ cups chicken or veg broth

1 Bayleaf

¼ boullion cube disolved in 1/8 cup boiling water

1 Cup cream or milk

1. Peel and cube your potatoes and parsnips and put aside.

lovely soup

2. Dice your onion and garlic fine (I use my food processor)

lovely soup

3. In a large soup pot, melt your fat (I really like bacon grease for this dish) on medium heat. Once melted, simmer your onion and garlic for a few minutes, until onion becomes translucent.

4. Add potatoes and parsnips, salt and pepper, and continue to simmer, stirring frequently, for 3 to five minutes.

lovely soup

5. Add white wine and stir well, pulling up any browned bits at the bottom of the pan.

6. Add bayleaf and chicken broth. Dissolve ¼ chicken boullion cube in 1/8 cup boiling water and add this to the mixture. Bring to a boil.

7. Reduce heat and simmer on a low boil for 20 minutes or until veg are nice and tender.

8. Remove bayleaf and add cream. Stir well and increase heat to allow the soup to just reach a boil, then remove from heat.

9. Blend at least half of the soup, with either a submerssion hand blender or by carefully putting half of the soup into a blender or food processor. Be careful not to burn yourself. I prefer to blend this soup completely, it gives it a lovely thick, smooth texture.

lovely soup

Serve this soup with some of these deliciously easy cheese biscuits, and the white wine you used for the soup. Also nice with this would be a miniature version of the Spring Equinox Salad from a previous post. Bon Apetite!

-Nicole Marsh-Mueller loves to cook locally and seasonally for her family and blogs at The Armchair Housewife

photo credit: Nicole Marsh-Mueller

locals’ only black bean soup

 

lovely salad

I was so excited when I got my first local box and found some beautiful black beans among its contents. The past few years as life has been too busy I got into the bad habit of buying canned, pre-cooked beans, but I am making a real effort to cook them from scratch again, both because they taste better and because we are trying to source more of our food locally. Plus, a pantry shelf lined with glass jars of dry beans in all colors is a beautiful sight in my opinion.

lovely salad

Aside from the spices, the recipe below is made with entirely local food, most of it from our local box. I made the soup with bacon and chicken stock, but it is very easily transitioned into a vegetarian meal for those who prefer to eliminate or limit their meat consumption.

Local’s Only Black Bean Soup

lovely salad

(the following amounts are for four servings of soup, which is just right for our small family. The recipe is easily doubled)
1 cup dry black beans, soaked in 3 cups cold water overnight
3 slices bacon (or 3 tblspoons of olive or grapeseed oil)
2 large cloves garlic
1 small onion
1/2 orange carrot
1/2 yellow carrot
½ teaspoon chili powder
1 ½ teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ceyenne pepper (this makes the soup what I would call “medium” heat)
4-6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
Sour cream and cilantro to garnish

lovely salad
lovely salad

1. If using bacon, cook slices until crispy in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Remove bacon and set aside.

2. While bacon is cooking, put garlic, onions, and carrots in food processor and dice until fine.

lovely salad

3. Add garlic and veggies to bacon grease (or heated olive oil if you are not using bacon) and cook for five minutes.

4. Stir in all spices and simmer for 1 minute.

lovely salad

5. Add beans and 4 cups of the broth. Cook on slow boil until beans are tender, about 2 hours, adding more broth as needed to keep the mixture at soup consistency. Stir occasionally.

6. When the beans are tender, blend half of the soup. I use a hand blender that goes right into the soup pot, but you can just as easily put half the soup in the blender or food processor, as long as you are careful you do not burn yourself.

lovely salad

7. Garnish with bacon crumbles, sour cream, and cilantro

lovely salad

Serve this soup over rice or with tortilla chips or, if you feel like baking, these delicious corn bread muffins. Enjoy!

-Nicole Marsh-Mueller loves to cook locally and seasonally for her family and blogs at The Armchair Housewife

photo credit: Nicole Marsh-Mueller