Since my days of four-course lunches at the Lambeth House are over and I had some foods to use up, I decided to make today my day to make a bunch of awesome things that I can have ready for lunches and dinners as needed. I had a butternut squash, spaghetti squash, zucchini, frozen chicken, frozen chicken sausage, kale, and….that’s really about it. Weird combo. After doing some thinking (and using some ideas that have been kickin around in my head for a while) I put together some ideas.
– Spaghetti squash with sauteed onion, zucchini, and a fresh tomato sauce. Possibly with tomato basil chicken sausage for protein.
– Kale salad with roasted butternut squash. I had considered throwing these two ingredients into a grain salad of sorts, but decided against it. Grains come up later on the list.
– BBQ pulled chicken with beans and corn, stuffed into hollowed-out sweet potato shells. I saw this a while back and knew I had to make it. Pulled meat works really well for freezing and thawing, so this was a perfect opportunity to try out the recipe! Plus I am obsessed with BBQ sauce but haven’t had much of an opportunity to use it lately.
– Some sort of hot grain salad/risotto with onions, mushrooms, kale, and apple chicken sausage. I did this once with wheatberries and it was awesome.
So I went to the store with my list, came back, and started cookin’!
Lately, I’ve been buying small spaghetti squashes, because they still yield plenty of stringy flesh for one girl, especially since I add things to it to make it a complete meal. Even if I were feeding a bunch of people, I still might buy two smaller ones because they can be really tough to cut through – and this is coming from someone who lifts regularly. For preparation, I like to boil my spaghetti squash (cut in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds first!) but you can bake it as well. I boil it for about 20 minutes, or just until my fork is able to sink down to the rind. Make sure not to overcook it, or else it just ends up mushy and loses the shape that makes it so much fun. Now, if you’ve never cooked spaghetti squash before you will be amazed when you go to loosen the threads of flesh from the rind. You just take a fork and scrape it out and it will come loose in long strands that look exactly like spaghetti!
At this point, you can use the squash in any recipe that you would use spaghetti in. It’s particularly popular with people on Atkins who don’t eat starches, or people with gluten allergies who can’t eat wheat pasta (wayyy cheaper than special gluten-free pastas). The way I like to do it is to saute up a bunch of vegetables and toss in the squash at the end, adding some sort of sauce, often pesto, right before serving. Yesterday, I used some zucchini that I had and cooked that up with an onion and a tomato. I thought I had more romas than I actually did, so after throwing in the squash and a cut up tomato basil chicken sausage for some protein, I topped it all with marinara. You must know that I am obsessed with marinara so I probably would have done this whether or not I had a ton of tomatoes to add to the dish. It was yummy (although this picture looks pretty boring)
Butternut Squash and Kale
I knew I wanted to combine my butternut squash and my kale. Hell, I have so much kale I may as well put the two together. At first I was thinking I would add some quinoa to the mix, but after doing some searching and finding the kale salad recipe, I knew I needed to try it. I really like Food52, I can generally trust that the popular recipes on that website are going to be knock-your-socks-off good because they are submitted as entries to a contest whereas websites like allrecipes.com are simply people sharing recipes that they love. On Allrecipes, there are a lot MORE recipes, and a lot that resemble one another. The popular ones are always crowd pleasers, and I’ll often go there for a recipe for baked goods or something more basic, but when I’m trying to get creative, Food52 is where it’s at. Anyway.
I’ve also been wanting to grow my kale skills by practicing mt massaged kale technique. Massaging kale is a way to break it down a little bit and make it softer for applications in salads and other raw dishes. Without this step, it can be really tough and difficult to choke down unless steamed, when obviously it is delicious and one of the greatest things on this earth. But steaming is sometimes a pain in the ass, so I really needed to get my act together and get massaging.
The recipe does not explicitly state to massage your kale, but they also use lacinato (aka dinosaur) kale, the flat kind, and I have a bunch of curly kale. Curly kale is prettier but also tougher. To massage, I threw my chopped up kale into a big bowl, added a splash of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice, and some salt and pepper, and just squeezed it over and over like you would to someone’s shoulders. Weird to think about, I know. The salt is important because of the role it plays in mechanically breaking down the kale. The tiny little crystals make small abrasions that result in soft, delicious, and well-seasoned kale salads. Gorgeous.
Northern Spy’s Kale Salad from Food52.com
- 1/2 cup cubed kabocha, butternut, or other winter squash
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 bunch kale (preferably lacinato or dinosaur kale), ribs removed and finely sliced, about 2 1/2 cups
- 1/4 cup almonds, cut roughly in half
- 1/4 cup crumbled or finely chopped Cabot clothbound cheddar (or any good, aged cheddar — if you can’t find aged cheddar, use parmesan)
- Fresh lemon juice
- Pecorino or other hard cheese, for shaving (optional)
- Heat oven to 425° F. Toss squash cubes in just enough olive oil to coat, and season with salt and pepper. Spread on a baking sheet (lined with parchment for easier cleanup), leaving space between the cubes. Roast in the oven until tender and caramelized, about 40 minutes, tossing with a spatula every 10-15 minutes. Toast the almonds on a baking sheet in the same oven until they start to smell nutty, tossing once, about 10 minutes. Let cool.
- In a large mixing bowl, toss the kale with the almonds, cheddar and squash. Season to taste with lemon juice and olive oil (approximately 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 2 tablespoons olive oil). Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Divide salad between two plates or shallow bowls. Garnish with shaved pecorino cheese, if desired, and serve.
I peeled the squash with a vegetable peeler, which is the easiest way to accomplish this task, and cubed half of it. On a side note, raw butternut squash is one of the best smells in the world. I roasted the squash with just a touch of olive oil, salt, and pepper at 425 for 30 minutes, and threw in some halved almonds for the last ten minutes. The squash ends up tasting much different than you expect butternut squash to taste, since it’s not baked with butter and brown sugar but instead with savory seasonings. Still delicious and perfect for a salad! The last addition is chunked aged cheddar cheese, which makes everything better. When I was at Rouses, they apparently messed up their labels in the cheese cooler because I somehow ended up with a tiny sliver of cheese that was over $7. Unit price just under $40/lb. Whoops. That is more money than I am willing to spend going out.
By the time I had finished these two recipes, it was 2:30 and therefore I was more than ready for lunch, having woken up at 6AM. Somebody reset my internal clock, please! I refueled, straightened up a bit, and rolled up my sleeves to fill the croc pot.
BBQ chicken-stuffed sweet potato skins from Nutritionella
- 1lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, rinsed & patted dry
- 4 sweet potatoes (medium-large in size)
- 2 cups frozen corn
- 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained & rinsed
- 1/2 large sweet onion, diced
- 1 1/4 cup BBQ sauce
- 1/2 cup 0% or 2% Greek Yogurt (plus extra for topping )
- 1/4 cup shredded cheese ((Mexican blend or your favorite will do!)
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- 1 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 4-6 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, deseeded and minced (4 for mild spice, 6 for moderate)
- 1 jalapeño, deseeded & minced (for extra kick)
BBQ chicken can be cooked ahead of time and refrigerated until you’re ready to bake the potatoes and chow down – just shred the chicken before storing. Add corn, cilantro, Greek yogurt and baked sweet potato before reheating.
|Combine chicken, bbq sauce, onion, black beans, chipotle peppers, jalapeño (optional), vinegar, paprika and garlic salt in slow cooker, cover and cook on low heat for 3-4 hours.|
|When ready to eat, bake sweet potatoes (naked) for 45 minutes – 1 hour at 350F. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before slicing in half and scooping out the flesh. Add flesh to the slow cooker and stir until well incorporated.|
|Once cooked, shred chicken breasts with two forks. Add chicken back to the slow cooker along with corn, Greek yogurt and cilantro. Cover and let sit for 10-15 minutes.|
|Scoop 3/4 – 1 cup of bbq chicken mixture into each sweet potato skin. Sprinkle with shredded cheese and place under a broiler for 3-4 minutes until cheese is melted.|
|Serve warm, with a dollop of Greek yogurt in place of sour cream.|
Finally I was ready to dump some ingredients and forget about them for several hours. I used three frozen chicken breasts, and otherwise followed the recipe exactly. I was excited to use chipotles because I never have before but overall it was anticlimactic and now I need to figure out what to do with the rest of them. Any ideas? Mom, you can leave those out.
Three hours of lounging and a long walk later, I pulled the chicken, added the potato meat, corn, and plain yogurt and filled em up. By the time I was finally able to eat one I was so full of bites straight from the croc pot that I struggled to eat half a potato skin. Woe is me!
I let the potato skins cool, individually bagged them, and put them in the freezer for easy weeknight meals. They will keep safely in the freezer for up to 6 months, but I think they’ll be gone well before then!
This whole process was finally over around 9PM, and for some reason I felt like I was about to fall asleep standing so instead of completing the last planned recipe, I hopped into bed for a good night’s sleep. I’m getting a little bit sick and I needed the sleep and the good dinner!