Dinner successes

Two nights in a row, Little Chef has informed me that I’ve cooked “the best dinner ever.” High praise from a preschooler!

Last night was nothing groundbreaking in terms of creativity, but I do have to agree that it was delicious. I sauteed chicken apple sausage with a bunch of leftover vegetables – a summer squash, a few tomatoes, garlic, spinach – and served it mixed up with bow tie pasta. The end result had a sweet-and-smoky thing going on, unsurprising because of both the apples in the sausage and the small sprinkle of maple sugar I added in during cooking. Adding sugar to this concoction seems so counter-intuitive, but I was thinking in terms of cutting the acidity of the tomatoes, the way you would when making marinara sauce.

Tonight, we had homemade vegan Sloppy Joes, with corn on the cob (from Farmer John) and cherry tomatoes (from Chelsa).

For the sandwiches, I sauteed onions in some grapeseed oil, cumin, and chili powder. I then added garlic and bell pepper. When they started to soften, I added a package of chorizo seitan. Meanwhile, I made the sauce.

Growing up, I definitely remember Mom making Sloppy Joes with pre-packaged sauce. It’s ridiculously easy to make your own sauce, though, and it honestly tastes better. I used 3/4 cup ketchup, to which I added a healthy glug of Worcestershire (you can adjust based on how smoky you like your food), dried mustard (I would have used dijon if I had it, but we’re out of mustard currently), a heavy-handed dash of pepper (again, optional) and some water to thin it out – about half a cup.

I added the sauce to the seitan and veggie mix, and I let it cook down until the sauce thickened. Somewhere along the way, I decided that I was concerned that it wouldn’t be enough food – because that’s what I do – so I added a can of kidney beans. It would have been exactly enough without the beans, but they tasted good! And now we have leftovers!

Easy, healthy dinner from the freezer

Remember how I talked about making vegetable soup base a while back? Two nights ago, I used one of these babies to make a comforting dinner on the fly.

While I defrosted the pre-made soup starter, I sauteed a package of chicken and apple sausages (frozen from my summer poultry share from Griggstown Farm). I deglazed the pan with a little white wine and then added some zucchini I’d blanched and frozen in the summer.

After making sure the sausage had cooked through, I added the vegetable soup base and a package of edamame from Trader Joe’s. I brought the soup up to boiling for a few minutes and then cut the heat. Ta-da! Dinner was done.

We actually topped the soup with the remainder of the pea shoots from last week’s microgreen delivery, but I was hungry/disorganized enough that I did not think to take a picture of my bowl. Next time!

Squash Pasta Sauce

Life is so cozy at this moment. The snow is falling, there is vegetable broth simmering on the stove, I’ve got spaghetti sauce steeping low-n-slow in the crock pot, and the house is covered in Christmas decorations.

…also I’ve been forced to downshift because my son is sick. This is the second day in a row I’ve kept him home from school, so I’ve needed to focus on what I can do at home.

It occurred to me that I have a huge backlog of photos of recipes that I’ve made recently, but I haven’t taken the time to post about them. I’ll start here and then queue up some further posts for you to enjoy over the course of a few days, while I slide into the last-week-before-Christmas prepping madness.

Since I’ve got regular marinara sauce going in the crock pot right now, let me tell you about the delicious pasta sauce I made the other night.

I’ve still been working my way through the remaining squash from the stock-up share. For this recipe, I used the front-most squash in this picture, which I’m fairly certain is a hokkaido squash. The squashes in the stock-up share are tricky, because I don’t get the benefit of a label. There are SO MANY winter squash varieties! 

I roasted the squash. The easiest method (in my opinion) for roasting winter squash, when you are just aiming for puree, is to cut the squash in half, seed it, and put it cut-side down in a pyrex dish with about 1/2 inch of water. Cook the squash in a 400 degree oven until it is tender – usually about 45 minutes, though that varies with the size of the squash.

Once the squash was roasted, I started sauteeing some garlic in some EVOO. I then proceeded to make a roux… though I made it with Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Almond Milk instead of regular milk. I’ve been shying away from dairy, and I had  this open in the fridge. The flavor combo seemed obvious, too.

You can make a vegan roux by using olive oil and almond milk instead of butter and milk. Follow the same method you would for a traditional roux.
This is delicious in coffee, as well.

I stirred in the squash puree, along with some spices – cinnamon, nutmeg, paprika.

I’d intended to use diced tomatoes, but it turns out I’d run out of them. I used crushed instead, and it worked out fine. I used half of a large can of crushed tomatoes, and then added salt and pepper to taste.

The final product! I boiled some pasta – in this case, trio italiano veggie pasta. I also sauteed chicken and apple sausage in a chef pan before adding the pasta and sauce. If you forego the sausage, the meal is vegan. I recommend saving some of the starchy pasta water in case you need to thin the sauce; I did add a splash at the end.

This dinner was delicious, and my experiment actually yielded enough sauce to freeze some to use another time. It reheated well the next day, as well.

Sausage Crustless Mini-quiches

Of course, when any of us hears “CSA,” the vegetables are the first thing that come to mind. I can’t speak for every CSA out there, but in the case of mine, there are also shares available in fruit, poultry, eggs, and individual orders of meats and one-off crops, like blueberries. I’m ambitious (and have ample freezer space), so I get a dozen eggs, a package of apple chicken sausage, 2 lb of ground turkey, and a whole broiler chicken on alternate weeks. Today’s breakfast (made last night) showcases this side of my share. I made muffin-tin chicken sausage crustless mini-quiches. That’s a mouthful.

First, the prep. I cut up some red onion and red potato into small pieces. What’s pictured ended up being way too much – the remainder of the onion went into last night’s salad, and the potatoes went into the freezer to be hash browns on some winter morning. I also chopped up the greens from the radishes we got this week, and a few cloves of German White garlic, still hanging around from the garlic festival.

I squeezed the sausage out of its casings into a hot pan with a turn of olive oil. As it browned, I crumbled up the pieces.

When the sausage was mostly done, but not quite, I added the onions and potatoes. I let that cook for a couple of minutes, then added the garlic. Again, a pause for a couple of minutes, and then the greens, which I allowed to wilt and then I turned off the heat. Along the way, I chose to add some smoked paprika, but you could really season it any way you prefer.

 

This mixture got equally divided among 12 muffin tins.

I scrambled some eggs with some milk and parmesan cheese. I estimated six eggs (what I usually use for a fritatta), but ended up needing to add a seventh. I poured the scrambled egg mixture into each of the cups, filling  each most of the way. Next time, I plan to scramble the eggs in my big glass measuring cup – pouring out of the bowl into the small targets was tougher than I expected.

I baked them at 375 for somewhere around half an hour. The trick is to keep an eye on them and test them when they start to brown on top. If you can stick a knife into the center of the center-most quiche and it comes out clean, then they’re done.

These were a delicious and filling breakfast this morning, along with some applesauce and toast. Even my toddler cleared his plate!