Butternut Squash & Chard Lasagna

This month’s issue of Cooking Light is killing it.  Granted, it could be the preggo hormones talking, but I dog-eared almost every single page in the magazine when I got it.

Not that you asked, but here are my general thoughts on Cooking Light:

CL to me = what I imagine Pinterest is to other people.  (Pinterest is far too complicated for me to ever figure out.)  Take the recipe and then add your imagination (and more butter).  Also, I will never use anything but full fat ricotta.  So, of course this “lightened” vegetarian lasagna is really just vegetarian lasagna.  Still, way to go, CL.

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Butternut Squash & Chard Lasagna
  • 3- 4 cups cubed + peeled butternut squash
  • approx 1 cup veggie broth
  • 1 cup milk
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • salt, pepper
  • dash nutmeg (really, small dash – I find nutmeg overwhelming)
  • 1 cup shredded Gruyere/Swiss
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 boxes mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 big bunch Swiss chard or other leafy green
  • half box no boil lasagna noodles
  • a little less than a cup ricotta cheese
  • parsley
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Combine squash, broth, milk, and garlic in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and then simmer until squash is tender (about 20 minutes). Remove from heat.
  3. Place squash mixture in a blender OR – use your immersion blender!! Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg and blend until smooth.   Add the Gruyere and about half the mozzarella to the mixture; stir until it melts all the way in.
  4. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion and mushrooms; cook about 5-7 minutes or until browned and liquid evaporates. Add chard and a splash of broth. Cover and cook until chard wilts.  Drain the mixture – you want all that excess moisture out of there.
  5. Spread about a cup of the squash sauce in bottom of a glass/baking dish, arrange noodles over the sauce, and top with half of the the chard/mushrooms.  Dollop and spread a bit of ricotta all across.  Then, repeat the process – squash sauce, noodles, chard mixture.  Then, more squash, and finally, mozzarella cheese (and parm, if you feel like it).
  6. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 375 for 35 minutes.  Uncover and bake another 10 minutes – and then turn the heat up and broil the whole thing for the last 3 minutes.  Serve topped with parsley..and a side salad to cut all that cheese!

 

 

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The Verdict:

This is a cheese-fest. Which obviously means it’s an A+ in my book.  Bonus: it makes servings for dayyyyyyys.

 

Artichoke + Fennel Seed Paella

Every so often, you need to get fancy.  As in: fancy = your highest heels + your reddest lipstick + the expensive bottle of wine you’ve been saving.

Or, when you’re gestating a human, and you want to put on your best lined slippers and your size-up yoga pants…the good news is you can still cook with really fancy ingredients, to make up for the wine you’re missing.  I’m talking those things you bought when you went to the specialty kitchen store or spice bazaar and your husband was like, seriously? Do we even have room in the cabinets?  When are we going to use these things?  And you give him a look that says: this is already done.  You know what I’m talking about.

Saffron, fennel seeds, calasparra rice, all in one dish.  You can even wear red lipstick.

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Artichoke + Fennel Seed Paella

  • olive oil
  • two white or yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 bell peppers (I used an orange and a green)
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • small handful fennel seeds
  • small handful saffron threads
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 and 1/4 cup calasparra rice (super hard to find – you can substitute another short grain rice like bomba or calrose)
  • 1 cup dry sherry or white wine
  • bunch parsley, washed and roughly chopped
  • small handful smoked paprika
  • 1 jar or can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
  • other vegetables as you please: grape tomatoes, scallions, spinach, etc.
  • 1 lemon
  1. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat.  Add a bit of olive oil and then onions + peppers and cook until softened, about 8 minutes.  While these cook, pour the veggie stock into a bowl with the saffron and allow that tasty goodness to infuse the broth.
  2. Add garlic and fennel seeds to the pan, saute for another few minutes, or until onions begin to brown.  Turn the heat up and then add a bit more olive oil, add the rice and cook for a few minutes.  Pour in the sherry or wine and cook until the liquid mostly evaporates.
  3. Add salt, pepper, parsley, and smoked paprika – stir and cook for a minute or two.  Pour in the stock, turn down the heat to medium again and leave your paella alone.  No really.  No stirring.  Let the rice cook in that beautiful stock until there is just a tiny bit of liquid bubbling on top – about 10-15 minutes.
  4. Add the artichokes and/or other vegetables into the top of the rice and push them down (again, taking care not to stir the rice).  Cook another 5-10 minutes, then turn off the heat and cover the whole thing, in order to let all the liquid absorb.
  5. Just before serving, squeeze the juice from the lemon all over the paella and scatter with parsley.

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 The Verdict:

This paella gets even better on days 2 + 3 (which is a good news because this is a LOT for two people, even one person who counts as 1.5).  Depending on your level of love for artichokes (mine is quite high) I might even suggest doubling up on those.  Get really fancy.

Chicken Divan*

Clearly I’m the last person in the world to want or think about dieting, or restricting my eating habits in any way, (we all saw what went on over Valentine’s Day at our house) so I don’t even want to put this label out there.  But here goes: this “chicken divan” is paleo.

Let me explain myself for a moment here: this recipe was shared with me by my future SIL, H, who has been on a month-long kick to figure out what has been ailing her stomach.  Turns out, it’s probably dairy.  Turns out, that really, really stinks.  To make up for it, I’m on a mission to consume all the ice cream she can’t.  You’re welcome, H.  Don’t mention it.

Also: this recipe is actually all sorts of delicious.

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Chicken Divan*

(*sort of)

  • 2 cups raw cashews
  • olive oil, ghee or, (gasp) butter
  • 1 pound chicken breasts, cubed
  • 3-4 heads broccoli, chopped into florets
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1 white or yellow onion, diced
  • 1-2 cups chicken stock
  • salt, pepper
  • large handful curry powder
  • small handful ground coriander
  1. Soak your cashews – either by placing them in a bowl of water overnight (which takes forethought and planning, which I didn’t have) or by placing them in a sauce pan with about 3 cups of water, bringing to a boil, and then turning off the heat, leaving them to soak for about an water.
  2. Heat a deep skillet, add olive oil or butter to the pan.  Season your chicken liberally with salt and pepper and then add it to the pan and cook until it turns golden brown.  Put the broccoli over the chicken and cover the pan, allowing the steam to cook the broccoli.
  3. While all that cooks away, drain the cashews and add them to your food processor, along with the garlic, onion, salt, pepper, coriander, and curry.  Pulse a few times, and then slowly add the chicken stock, turning the food processor on all the way.  Add stock until you achieve your desired consistency.
  4. Pour the cashew sauce over the chicken and broccoli mixture and give it a good toss, making to sure to coat the whole thing.  Give it a moment or two to cook down (the raw garlic, in particular!), and then serve…with couscous.

 

The Verdict:

As you’ll note if you check out the original recipe and what I describe above, I doubled the sauce and the broccoli (not the chicken) and found this is more than enough to feed 2 people, with LOTS of leftovers.  We’re making up for Vday, after all.  Have no fear though: this is actually really good and makes you feel sort of virtuous at the same time.  Pass the couscous, though.

 

 

 

 

Brown Butter Sage Ravioli with Roasted Vegetables

I’m sad to report that the last couple of meals chez nous have not been worthy of a post.  There was a failed curry.  There was a frozen pizza…and then pizza delivery.  And then for the last couple of days, there has been Lipton’s soup, as I struggle to fend off a cold.

But this meal redeems me to me.  And to my husband.  And based on the punches I received to my uterus, baby as well.  I guess butter + pasta will do that.

 

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Brown Butter Sage Ravioli with Roasted Vegetables

  • olive oil
  • 1 package pre-cut butternut squash
  • 1 package cremini mushrooms, sliced in half
  • 8 leaves fresh sage
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 package ravioli (I used root vegetable ravioli from TJ’s)
  • splash dry white wine
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • pepper, salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Spread the butternut squash evenly in a jelly roll pan, drizzle olive oil, salt and pepper and give the whole thing a toss.  Stick in the oven for 20 minutes – use this time to slice up your mushrooms and prep your garlic.
  2. At the 20 minute mark, add the mushrooms to the pan with the squash, give the mixture a toss, and then stick it back in the oven for another 20 minutes.  (This is actually the perfect amount of time to do the rest of the steps below!)
  3. Start boiling water for the ravioli – add a bit of salt for flavor.  Cook the ravioli according to directions; drain and reserve just a splash of the starchy water.
  4. While water boils, heat a small skillet over medium heat – when hot, add the butter.  When the butter starts to turn lightly brown at the top, add the garlic, cook for 30 seconds, and then add the sage.  Cook for 1-2 minutes, and then remove from heat.  Add a splash of wine, the lemon juice and just a touch of pepper.
  5. Take your veggies out of the oven.  Serve raviolio topped with veggies, and then drizzle the sauce over the top.  Don’t forget to garnish with the sage – this is delicious.

The Verdict:

HOLY DELICIOUS.  How have I never been taken aside before for an explanation of the glories of brown butter sage sauce?  Mom, where were you on this one?!

 

Mixed Mushroom & Barley Soup

Two things happened last week that could have put a real cramp in our babymoon-style.  (Yes, turns out I will do anything to take a vacation, including calling it a babymoon.)  In early December, I bought us tickets to St. Lucia.  I don’t know what it is about that island, but I have always wanted to go.  Maybe because my parents went when I was a kid, and I’ve always thought: man, when I grow up, I’m going to St. Lucia.

Then:

  1. Zika virus.  If you haven’t heard of this yet, count yourself lucky, because it means you haven’t been on the phone with cheapcaribbean.com fighting to get a refund.  Turns out Zika is a mosquito-borne virus – ripping through the Caribbean right now – that only infects pregnant women.  And then causes massive birth defects in babies.  Remember: St. Lucia.  Babymoon.
  2. Winter Storm Jonas.  If you’re not familiar with DC – the whole city shuts down when we get something vaguely resembling snow.  My hometown mayor, Marty Walsh, actually just said “I feel bad,” and then offered to lend my adopted town some snow plows.  Seriously.

So, instead, we pulled a last minute audible and spent the last few glorious days basking in the Southern California sunshine, hiking in the desert.  (Take that, mosquitoes.)  Turns out, Joshua Tree National Park really is all it’s cracked up to be.

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Then, we came home.  One look at the snow piles in the street & we knew, Marty’s help or not, we won’t be seeing our car until spring.  Only Ina could fix this mess.

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Mixed Mushroom & Barley Soup (adapted from Ina Garten)

  • 1 bag dried mushrooms (I had porcini)
  • olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3-4 stalks celery, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup pearled barley
  • 2 containers mushrooms, sliced (I used cremini and white button)
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 6 cups broth (veggie, beef, chicken, whatever you have)
  • 10 stalks thyme, tied together if you can
  • large handful parsley
  • salt, pepper & crushed reds
  • 2 tablespoons butter (optional)
  1. Put the dried mushrooms in a bowl and pour about 2 cups or so boiled water over them,  to reconstitute them.  Set aside while you prep the veggies and get the rest of the soup prepared.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large soup pot.  Add onions, carrots, and celery, as well as salt, pepper, and crushed reds, and saute until softened, about 10 minutes.  Add garlic and barley and cook, stirring for about two minutes.  Add the mixed mushrooms (not the reconstituted dried ones just yet) and the red wine, cook for about five minutes.
  3. If the dried mushrooms aren’t sliced nicely yet, now’s a good time to strain them (reserving the mushroom water!) and chop them.  Otherwise, dump the whole thing (mushrooms + water) into the soup pot.   Add the broth, thyme, parsley and and a little more salt and pepper.
  4. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for about 45 minutes or until the barley is tender.
  5. At the very end, it’s a little decadent to add a dollop of butter – not necessary, obviously.  Discard the thyme, adjust seasoning, and serve with a bit of parsley on top.

The Verdict:

Not going to lie, after a few days of In & Out burgers and shakes, my body was grateful for this type of sustenance.  Not only good, but good for you.  Of course, now that we’ve been home a few days…I could use another babymoon.