Archive for October, 2013

Butternut Squash Lasagna

butternut squash lasagna

Have you looked at Pinterest lately? Been to a supermarket? How about to any restaurant on the planet? Unless you’ve been living under a rock (hey, Patrick Star!), you’ve likely noticed that Butternut Squash is taking over the world. This fall favorite is literally everywhere and for the longest time I didn’t understand why. With acorn squash, delicata squash, and all the other beautiful, colorful, weird looking squashes, why on earth does  butternut become the object of everyone’s affection the second the first leaf turns orange?

Well, I’ll tell you why. It’s because butternut squash is really friggin’ delicious. I suppose that whole “it’s what’s inside that counts” self-esteem mantra applies to the flora community too. Maybe it’s just me, and I know I sound insensitive here, but butternut squash is ugly. That awful outer color reminds me of the Peach Crayola marker and it lacks the funky ridged and speckled texture of its other squash compatriots.

Peel that bad boy, chop it up, and toss it in the oven though, and it’s like someone put this squash on an episode of Queer Eye For The Straight Guy. A drip of olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and half an hour in the oven later and you wouldn’t even know that this was the ugly duckling of the squash family! The buttery (oh, I get it now) texture and the nutty sweet flavor make you feel all warm and fuzzy…almost making up for the fact that the temperature outside is dropping faster than you can finish your dinner.

roasted squash

I could have eaten this whole sucker unadorned, but I had business to attend to. I happened upon a Trader Joe’s recipe similar to this one, and thought that if TJ’s had hopped the butternut squash wagon, I probably should, too. That said, their recipe called for about a gallon of Alfredo sauce, and that, thank you very much, is a wagon I hopped off of when I happened upon the nutrition facts (or lack thereof) a few years back.

Instead, this lasagna takes a more traditional route, with tomato sauce and a spinach and ricotta blend. It may sound like the same old same old, but I promise that the squash brings new life to this Italian dish.

traditional lasagna

Think sweet, creamy, and cheesy with a hint of spice. The three vegetables in this recipe (squash, tomatoes, and spinach) create an unlikely trifecta, balancing out each other’s flavors.

fall lasagna recipebutternut squash lasagna

Before I get too high and mighty with my flavor jargon, here’s how you can try it for yourself:

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

  • 1 butternut squash
  • Approx. 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 cups spinach
  • 1 ½ cups ricotta
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • No-cook lasagna noodles
  • 5 slices fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • Shaved parmesan

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Peel skin off of squash and slice in half, the long way. Use a spoon to remove the seeds and discard. Cutting in the opposite direction, slice squash into half-inch, half-moon slices.

3. Place squash pieces on a non-stick cookie sheet. Use a basting brush to lightly coat both sides of squash in olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 35-40 minutes.

4. While squash is roasting, heat 1-tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet. Once hot, add spinach and toss to coat. Sautee until spinach is wilted, but still bright green.

5. In a small bowl, combine spinach and ricotta, using a spoon to thoroughly mix.

6. Line the bottom of a medium/large baking dish with lasagna noodles. Top with a layer of tomato sauce. Add another layer of noodles and then one of the spinach and ricotta blend. Cover surface with all of the squash, pressing the pieces into the spinach/cheese mixture. Top with another layer of noodles. Finish off with a layer of tomato sauce, covered with mozzarella slices and top all with Parmesan.

7. Loosely cover with foil and bake in the 375-degree oven for 40 minutes. Lasagna is done when cheese on top is bubbling and brown.

healthy comfort foodthe pantry raid

 

 

Spicy Superfood Salad

superfood salad

I just learned how to blow-dry my hair. It’s miraculous how non-disheveled I can look by simply incorporating a blow dryer and round brush into my morning routine! With my newfound skills, I’ve managed to transform what previously resembled a brown mop into a shiny, straight, head of hair with a perfect flip at the bottom.

This is all well and good, but there’s just one problem. Tending to my hair adds more time than I’d care  to admit to my morning routine. 7 o’clock has become 6 o’clock and that morning person you all used to know has disappeared somewhere in between.

A good cup of coffee later, and I’m feeling pretty alive and looking just spiffy for my internship. Side note: have I told you yet that I landed the best internship ever? I’m spending the semester at Hill Holliday, lending a hand with the Content team. “Content,” in advertising, is the stuff that you want to watch. So, it’s not the ad you have to sit through before the YouTube video you’re trying to show your friends, it is the video you came to see. Sounds fun, right? It is.

As much fun as I’m having, 6a.m… is way earlier than anyone should ever have to wake up, even in the name of beauty, and that Fair Trade Honduran coffee wears off fast. Hill Holliday is constantly stocked with Dunkin’ coffee, but I’m not one of those people who’d happily be hooked up to an IV drip of caffeine. Doesn’t do it for me.

Around noontime, my eyelids are feeling a little heavy and I need a pick-me-up to get me through the day. Instead of transplanting my workspace to the nearest Dunkin’ coffeepot for fuel, I make this: the Spicy Superfood Salad, packed with all sorts of really delicious foodstuffs that sleepy bodies love…even more than caffeine. It’s worked wonders for me, and it tastes great, too. It’s got the perfect mix of textures and flavors and will keep you going all the way till 5p.m. I swear it.

the pantry raid

For the record:

Edamame is one of the best sources of plant protein. It’s stuffed with amino acids and just half of a cup boasts 11 grams of protein and 9 grams of fiber. Arigato!

Quinoa, that trendy stuff everyone’s talking about, is quite the superfood. Just to name a few of its known benefits: it’s low in calories and fat, helps with hypertension, lowers blood glucose levels for diabetics, helps with weight loss by suppressing your appetite, and delays signs of aging. Need I say more?

Avocados, aside from being the best thing on the planet, are one of the best things for you, too. They’re great for weight loss, anti-aging, cancer prevention, for both degenerative eye and brain prevention and California-homesickness…the list goes on.

Garlic is, perhaps, the superest superfood, with anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-you-name-it properties, the only downside is the resulting breath.

Ginger is a close second. It helps with muscle soreness and cures nausea, heartburn, colds, flues, cramps…the list goes on. It’s also an aphrodisiac, so there’s that.

On top of all that goodness, green apples are low in sugar, carrots are pumped with vitamins, and olive and sesame oil can help lower cholesterol.

ginger soy dressing

In short, there’s nothing bad about this salad. Here’s how to make it:

 

Ingredients (serves one):

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup red quinoa, cooked and chilled
  • ¾ cup edamame, shelled and steamed
  • 1 large carrot
  • ½ ripe avocado
  • ½ green apple
  • Breath mints (see: 3 cloves garlic)

 

1. In a small container, combine oils, soy sauce, ginger, and garlic and shake to combine. Place in refrigerator until ready to use.

2. Using a peeling tool, shave off thin ribbons from the carrot, working around until all that’s left is a small nub.

3. Cube apple and avocado.

4. Combine quinoa, edamame, carrot, apple, and avocado in a bowl. Shake up the contents of the dressing and then drizzle over the salad. Toss using two forks. Serve immediately or save dressing until right before serving.

 

**see the Instagram’d salad here.

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