Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Roasted Garlic and Winter Squash Pasta Sauce

My favorite pasta sauce actually started as an enchilada filling. At the time I found this recipe, I was living in Tucson, and a member of the Tucson CSA. The Tucson CSA is the most awesome CSA ever, in case you were wondering. Since leaving Tucson 18 months ago, I’ve used two different CSA companies and been thoroughly disappointed. Not because there was anything wrong with either farm, but simply because it wasn’t even close to the same.

Anywho, back on topic now. The Tucson CSA site has a million different recipes for using their vegetables. Literally, like one million recipes. Check it out. You can find something for just about every vegetable on the planet. They also have a cooking greens users guide, so you can learn how to make any type of cooking greens taste good (cause you know they need help!).

During a time of winter squash abundance, I attempted to make Roasted Squash and Garlic Enchiladas. They were all right, but not really great. They were a little too moist to be a good enchilada filling, although the flavor was perfect. And, of course, they were vegan. The hubby does not like vegan food, only because it has no meat in it (feel free to bang your head against the keyboard now).

The notes about the recipe included this one unimportant sentence that changed my life forever, “Also, the mashed squashed, diluted with water or wine, makes an excellent pasta or pizza sauce!” A kernel of genius in that one.

So, I tried the initial recipe again, since I liked the flavor so much (and the way the roasted garlic made my house smell). When I went to make these a second time, I gave up on the whole mashing the squash thing. Because, seriously, if the great Mother Goddess had intended for us to spend all that time mashing stuff, she wouldn’t have invented blenders. So, I blended away. Just roasted squash, water, and roasted garlic. So simple, and yet so divine. The resulting sauce is smooth, creamy, and so subtle.

Roasted Garlic and Winter Squash Pasta Sauce

1 yellow/orange fleshed winter squash (think Acorn, Delecata, Butternut, Red Curry, Sugar Pumpkin, or whatever you have on hand).

1-2 heads of garlic, depending on the size of your squash and your love of garlic (yes I really mean heads)

Olive oil


Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Brush the dirt off the garlic heads and then brush with olive oil. Place on a large baking sheet. Cut the winter squash in half (use a really good butcher knife and/or poke a few holes in the skin with a paring knife, microwave for 3-4 minutes, and then cut in half). Remove seeds and scrape out stringy parts. Brush inside flesh with olive oil. Place on baking sheet. Bake both the squash and the garlic until the squash is easily pierced with a fork all the way through, and the garlic collapses under light pressure. Remove from oven and let cool. Or, attempt the next step while it’s still flaming hot and swear a lot. Best phrase to use: Damn that’s hot.

Using a large metal serving spoon, scrape out the insides of the winter squash into a blender. You don’t have to be anal about removing all of the skin (but you can be if you want) because a little won’t kill the recipe. Just remove as much as possible, while still keeping your sanity.

Cut the top off the garlic bulb, just until you can see the insides. Holding it top down over the blender, squeeze the bulb until all the guts come out (you know you’re thinking, “Squeez the fun out of it!”). Add just enough water to blend. At this step, I usually add just a tiny amount of water to the blender, put the lid on and remove the little cap on my lid. Then, I turn that baby on to low, and see if I can get things to move. I add water in tiny amounts, until the blending really gets going. Then I put the little cap back on and crank it up to 240 MPH and let it go for 30-60 seconds or until all the chunks are gone and I’m left with a smooth sauce.

Serve over pasta, with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

For those who can indulge, a little freshly shaved Parmesan on top would make this even more divine (p.s. the stuff in the green can is not freshly shaved. Don’t go there).

For those with omnivore palates, ground Italian sausage or shredded chicken both go well with this sauce. Let me know what other combos you think up.

Finally, if you live in Tucson, get thee to the CSA (on University off 4th Ave) and sign up.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Strawberry Pie!

Crust recipe here

Friday, July 3, 2009

Reason #100 Why I Love Trader Joe's! Recipe Included!

I grew up in the Portland area, with three Trader Joe's surrounding me. And never went in to one! WHY?????
I moved to Tucson and waited 2 years before attempting a shopping trip! WHY???
When I finally went in to one, it was like I had died and gone to heaven. We shopped there every week for the next two years, doing more than half the grocery shopping there (with the rest done at the farmers market and at either Wild Oats or Food Conspiracy Co-op). Even now, in Seattle, I still make an effort to hit up a Trader Joe's at least once a month for our monthly stash of chips, granola bars, toilet paper, and olives despite the 8 mile trek. Moral of the story, run to your nearest TJs and give it a try!

When I went gluten free, the hardest thing was not being able to buy all my favorites. I lived on the whole wheat pasta, and woven wheat crackers, and the salad dressings. Ahhh, the salad dressings.

During my chip run two months ago, I discovered the most fantastic thing! Brown rice pasta - labeled gluten-free. It was like Joe had read my mind (or noticed that their whole wheat pasta sales were down. I seriously lived on that stuff). And, I think I'm in love. Both bags disapeared pretty fast. First, it tastes great. Pretty close to Tinkyada, if not right on. I should do a taste test some time. Second, it comes in 1 pound bags. Tinkyada's pasta comes in 12 ounce bags. 16 ounces is the right amount for a jar of sauce, and makes our pasta meals stretch just right. I usually get 4 dinner servings and two lunch servings out of a 16 ounce bag. And third, it's half the price of Tinkyada. I paid $1.99 per bag. Can't beat that!
Now, the downsides are this. You can not do the "energy saver" cooking method that Tinkyada mentions. This pasta cooks much faster. Mine has only been taking about 10-12 minutes to cook. It also has a tendency to stick to the bottom of the pot if left unattended, so be sure to give it a good stir every minute or so. Finally, it doesn't come in as many fun shapes. So far, I 've seen penne, spirals, and spaghetti. Hopefully we'll get more shapes as the product becomes more popular.

Greens, Beans and Pasta - Aglio e Olio style
By Paula Karrer, Tucson CSA

On Sunday, I cooked up this pasta dish. It was fantastic. The original recipe is found here. The Tucson CSA site has a fantastic recipe section for cooking just about any vegetable on the planet. This is necessary because the Tucson CSA shares often contain just about every vegetable on the planet. I still miss picking up my vegetables every week. It was the best part of my Tuesday.

1/2 lbs dried Canelloni beans or 2 cans
16 ounces pasta (I used spirals)
Good quality EVOO
3-4 cloves green garlic or to taste (I love garlic)
Sweet paprika
Chili powder (or chili flakes. I used powder 'cause that's what I had)
2 bunches of greens, washed and sliced into pieces (I used swiss chard and spinach)
1/2 C broth (I used chicken, but feel free to use beef or vegetable)

Soak beans overnight in filtered water. In the morning, drain, place in pot, and cover with 1" filtered water. Bring to a boil, let boil for at least 10 minutes, then reduce heat and simmer until soft. This takes between 1-2 hours. Drain, rinse, and refrigerate.
30 minutes before serving, bring pasta water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for about 8 minutes, or until almost done.
Meanwhile, wash green. I usually fill up my largest bowl with water and swish 1 bunch of greens at a time. Then, I run them under cold water until all the dirt is gone. Slice or tear into bite size pieces. Add to the pasta water at about 8 minutes (you may need to do this earlier for greens that take longer to cook, like kale). Cover pot and let greens steam (you may need to turn down the heat a bit to prevent the water from boiling out).
In your serving dish, cover the bottom with olive oil. Crush garlic with a press or with a heavy knife. Add to dish. Sprinkle salt, chili powder, and paprika to taste.
When the pasta and greens are cooked, drain and add to serving dish. Add the chicken broth. Stir everything until combined. Sample and adjust seasonings as needed.

Optional add-ins. The original recipe calls for parmesan cheese, which would be nice on top if you can eat dairy. My dearest husband also insists on ham on top of every vegetarian dish I make. He says it was a necessary ingredient. I liked mine meatless. Finally, when reheating this for lunch, I felt inspired and added nutritional yeast on top. It was fantastic.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Random Things to do on a Saturday Afternoon

Recipes aren't just for food. Recipes can be for just about anything like making a liquid fertilizer from concentrate to making foamy soap. Today, I'm doing both. One is because my veggie garden is in full swing and needs some nitrogen to make everything ginormous! Two, because my foaming soap dispenser needs to be refilled.

Now, there isn't much else to say about the garden other than to post pictures. Will do that in the next post. This post is all about making soap.

I confess that I'm addicted to blogs. I don't know why. Perhaps because they're short and my attention span is short. Perhaps it's because the writing is down to earth, most of the time. And perhaps it's because blogs provide endless opportunities for projects that I can do. I'm not arty or crafty, but I can make foaming soap! For great frugal project reading I recommend: Room Farm. I'm dieing to try some of these (GF Vanilla Extract, here I come!) For great homemade cleansers, Healthy Vegan Blog fills all my needs.

My first attempt at homemade cleansers was homemade Foamy Soap (recipe here). For those more adventurous than I, and those not allergic to almonds, you can also try Fancy Homemade Foaming Hand Soap.

The basic principle of the recipe is this: 1 part castile soap to 4 parts water. You can also add in essential oils to make fun scents. I used Trader Joes Pure Castile Soap, filtered water (because homemade soap deserves better than straight up tap) and tea tree essential oil (tea tree oil is reputed to have natural antibacterial/antifungal properties).

I mixed up a half cup of water, two tablespoons of soap, and a few drops of tea tree oil in a half pint mason jar, screwed on the lid, shook the heck out of it and used a funnel to pour it into my foamy soap container.

Which brings me to the most important part of this recipe: equipment! Foamy soap containers are different from regular soap dispensers. They are meant to make soap come out as a foam rather than a liquid:

I used one from Ballard Organics, a local soap making company. I've also heard that Kiss My Face makes them. After refilling, screw back on the lid, pump and enjoy the foam!

Now some of you are probably going, why would you do this! It's an easy way to save money. When I originally bought my container, I paid about $6 with tax. Normally, I use Trader Joes Handsoap in the clear bottle with a purple label. It costs $2.99 plus tax. It also uses a plastic container. Even if I refill the TJ's handsoap container, I still am using straight soap. TJ's castille soap was $3.49 plus tax for 347 ML. I used 30 ML of soap (aprox. $.35), $.000001 in water, and maybe $.25 worth of essential oils. That makes my foamy soap cost about $.600001 per refill. Versus $2.99 for TJ's soap or $6 for Ballard Organics soap. When you think about it, for the Ballard Organics's soap, you're paying like $2 for ingredients, packaging, and distribution, and $4 for water. foamy soap makers have a great money making scheme going!

Enjoy your foamy soap!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Baking Update

Yikes!  Where has the time gone?  It seems like it was just last night that I posted the first baking post.  And it's really been two weeks.  

Since my last post, I have started my latest science project (since GF baking really is more about science and less about "cooking":  Karina's English Muffin Recipe.  They were pretty close to the real thing.  They even had nooks and crannys for butter.  Perhaps that was what was missing - butter.  I baked and ate about half of them.  I ate two straight out of the oven and two were used for English Muffin Sandwiches (to be soon described in another post) and I froze four, unbaked.  Those are still in the freezer hopefully to be baked soon.  I'll let you know how that goes.  I made my usual change to a Karina recipe; I subbed brown rice flour for the millet.  To be quite honest I don't have the time, energy, or space for another GF flour.  I have brown and sweet and white rice, buckwheat, sorghum, teff, tapioca, cornmeal, potato starch, corn starch, and lotus starch (a whole nother post as well).  I simply don't have room in my fridge to store the flour, nor do I have the brain capacity to remember how much millet I have left.  Just not going to happen.

I also completed a science projection:  Biscuits! from Hey, that tastes good!  In my last post, I had mentioned how fantastic tasting these were.  I have since discovered that they have amazing super powers beyond just tasting fantastic.  The unbaked dough also happens to freeze well and bake up tasting and looking as fantastic as the original.  Imagine the potential!  You can make a double or triple batch of the dough and freeze the majority unbaked.  Then, whenever you feel like freshly baked biscuits, you can have them with minimal effort and dishes.  I'm in love.  If I could, I think I would marry these biscuits.  
The only prep prior to freezing is cutting them into squares.  I froze about half the squares in a recipe.  When I was ready for biscuits round two, I popped them out of the freezer and onto a baking sheet.  Into the oven they went at 400 degrees for 15-18 minutes.  When you bake frozen goods, you should always lower the temperature by at least 25 degrees lower than the recipe says, and plan to bake them for a longer time.  I had to pull the smaller biscuits out early (because mine were not sized equally) but they all tasted fantastic.  
I hope you enjoy these biscuits as much as I do.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Baking up a storm!

According to the husband, I am constantly cooking up a storm.  He is right; I do cook a lot.  And the kitchen does sometimes look like a storm hit it, after I'm done.  Lately, I've been baking up a storm.  I've been craving soft, warm moist baked things that don't taste like rubber or crumble to nothingness on the first bite.   Can you blame me?

Here's what I've been baking:

Biscuits!  Recipe from Hey that tastes good!:  http://www.heythattastesgood.com/2008/12/biscuits.html
I made them vegan by using shortening and hemp milk.  Fantastic.  Even the hubby liked them.

Karina's Delicious Gluten Free Bread, from Karina's Kitchen:
I use brown rice flour instead of millet flour, and everything else stays the same.  Except, I do not have a bread machine, so into the oven it goes.  Scroll down to the bottom of the recipe for the non-bread machine instructions.  Great bread, and it still tastes decent after a week in the fridge.

Cinnamon Apple Muffins, also from Karina's Kitchen: 
Great tasting muffin, and freezes well.  Omitted the nuts and the allspice, simply because when I made these, I was craving muffins but in no mood to run to the store to get all the ingredients.

Pumpkin Pecan Cookies, also from Karina's Kitchen:
I swear I am not virtually stalking Karina.  Really!  I omitted the nuts on both versions (I really should go to the store sometime) and used homemade pumpkin puree rather than canned.  Version 1 had chocolate chips from Enjoy Life and version two had dried cranberries.  Both were great, but I preferred the chocolate ones.  I think there is a chocoholic gene in my family!

Made both hamburger buns and hot dog buns.  The dough is very forgiving.  On the hamburger version, I messed up the measurements on the dry ingredients and I baked them at the wrong temperature.  They still came out okay.  I used Egg Replacer instead of the eggs and hemp milk instead of regular milk.  Good, non-crumbly buns!

Let me know what you've been baking.  I'm always on the look out for new ways to mess up the clean kitchen!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Good News!

My pistachios are not part of the pistachio recall.   That doesn't mean yours are safe to eat though.  

This is the email I got from Whole Paycheck:

Thank you for your email. Our Food Safety team is looking at all areas of our business, the FDA is investigating and we will continue to monitor the situation as it unfolds. At this time we have recalled

Flavor Tree In-Shell Salted Pistachios 16 oz with Best Before dates of 07/21/2009, 08/12/2009 & 10/16/2009 ONLY
365 Pistachios dry roasted & salted (In-Shell) 16oz with Best Before dates of 07/08/2009 GL1, 07/08/2009 GL2, & 11/27/2009 GL1 (other lot codes are not affected).

Please contact your local store regarding any bulk pistachios you may have purchased, since these items are sourced regionally.

All pistachio related recall information will be posted on our website at 

Kind regards,

-(Very nice customer service person at Whole Paycheck)

Mine have a different "Best Before" date, so I've been chowing down.