Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Autumn Roasted Vegetables and Farro Salad

Last weekend was a weekend of firsts for me: my first California football game – Cal vs. UCLA, my first tailgating experience, my first time at the Rose Bowl. It was so much fun! The Rose Bowl is not your typical tailgating experience. Essentially it’s like a big park (beautiful green space!) with A LOT of people picnicking. We had a few “yard” games to play like beanbags and yard golf and of course plenty of food…including this yummy salad.

As much as I love quinoa, a girl just has to spice things up from time to time to add variety and excitement to cooking and eating. And so, with that in mind, I decided on farro tossed with a few of my fall favorites.

Farro is an ancient grain with a lovely texture, nuttiness and elegance that exceeds many common grains. It is also the perfect substitute for Arborio rice in a risotto dish. Though farro is much lower in gluten and easily digested, it should still be avoided by those with celiac disease or a wheat sensitivity. Farro is an excellent source of complex carbohydrates and unlike other whole grains, it contains cyanogenic glucosides, which have been found to stimulate the immune system, lower cholesterol and help maintain blood sugar levels. It is also high in fiber, magnesium and vitamins A, B, C and E.      

There are different types of farro (pearled, semi-pearled and un-pearled) so make sure you prepare your farro according to the label.

1 ½ cups of uncooked farro
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed and cubed
3-4 cups of Brussels sprouts, sliced in half
3 tablespoons of fresh sage, chopped finely
½ cup of raw unsalted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1 tablespoon of coconut oil
Sea salt
* dried cranberries - optional

Vinaigrette Ingredients
¾ cup EVOO (plus a little extra)
¼ cup apple cider vinegar (plus a little extra)
1-2 tablespoons of honey
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
Sea salt

* Vinaigrette recipe makes one cup.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Toss the butternut squash and Brussels sprouts (separately) in a large bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and sea salt. Line two baking sheets with foil or parchment paper (easier clean up) and transfer the squash cubes and Brussels sprouts to the separate pans. Shake the pans to evenly distribute the veggies.

Roast the Brussels sprouts for approximately 15-20 minutes and the squash for approximately 25-30 minutes, or until tender.

Prepare the farro according to the package or label. When it has finished cooking, transfer to a large bowl and set aside.

Heat the coconut oil in a small skillet. Add the finely chopped sage and fry until slightly crispy.

To make the vinaigrette, whisk together the olive oil, apple cider vinegar, honey, cinnamon and a pinch of sea salt until emulsified and somewhat opaque.

Add the farro, squash, Brussels sprouts and fried sage to a large bowl. Drizzle with some of the vinaigrette and toss well. Top with pepitas, dried cranberries (optional) and serve!

Note, you will have left-over vinaigrette. Seal it in a jar and keep for up to two weeks.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Rich & Creamy Butternut Squash Smoothie

Nothing screams fall like heaping baskets of various winter squash. And though I don’t usually discriminate when it comes to squash, butternut…well, lets just say it holds a very special place in my heart. The smooth creamy color on the outside gives way to the rich buttery flesh on the inside. You can count on almost anything with the word butternut in it to be delicious, including this beautiful velvety butternut squash smoothie.

When buying squash, look for those with a nice firm healthy stem, with even shiny skin free from dents, dings, blemishes and soft spots. Store your squash in a cool dry place (around 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit) and it will keep for weeks, possibly even months.

The hardest part of roasting squash is cutting it open. First, rinse (with water only) the outside of the squash and dry it off. Next trim both ends, slice the squash in half length-wise (keep your fingers out of the way!) and use a spoon to scoop out all the seeds. Drizzle a tiny bit of extra virgin olive oil on the flesh and use your fingers to coat it evenly. Place the squash flesh side down on a rimmed baking sheet and you’re ready to roast!

Suggestion, buy more than one butternut squash because you’ll want to enjoy this again ASAP after slurping it down the first time around. Can you say addicting?

1 small to medium butternut squash
1 ½ cups of unsweetened almond milk
3-4 dates, pits removed
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1-2 teaspoons of cinnamon (your choice!)
½ teaspoon of nutmeg
½ teaspoon of ginger
¼ teaspoon of ground cloves
1 large handful of ice

* If you want to add some superfoods, try either 1 tablespoon of lucuma or chia seeds. This is completely optional J and doesn’t change the flavor of the smoothie at all.

Following the squash prep advice above, roast the squash at 350°F for approximately 40-45 minutes or until tender when pierced with a knife. Remove from oven and let cool.

Scoop out all the squash flesh and toss it into a high-speed blender. Add all remaining ingredients and blend on high until velvety smooth and creamy. Pour into glasses or jars and enjoy immediately! Enjoy this dreamy deliciousness with a cinnamon stick for an extra special touch.