Butternut Squash and Quinoa Harvest Skillet

IMG_1330I know my last recipe I posted was butternut squash based, so I’m sorry for the lack of variation. It’s because it’s seriously my favorite fall veggie and can be used in countless different ways. For Tuesday’s roommate dinner this week, I casually whipped up one of the best vegetarian, seasonal meals I’ve ever made.  I didn’t really put too much thought into making this, but I wish I would have written down the exact amounts of things (this recipe is basically just a mixture of several different ingredients and you can play around with amounts). I didn’t realize while I was throwing this together that it would turn out SO dang delicious.  If you love fall and the seasonal ingredients, then I promise you’ll love the flavor and texture combos in this dish.

(serves about 4-6, could be entree or side dish)

Ingredients

Butternut squash, peeled and chopped into cubes (I used about 3/4 of a large one)

S/P, ground nutmeg, ginger, garlic powder (to taste)

1-2 t agave nectar

Quinoa, cooked in chicken or vegetable stock (I started with 1 cup dry)

2 T olive oil

1 medium onion, sliced thin

3 garlic cloves, chopped

Several handfuls of fresh spinach or kale or a combo

1 medium sweet and crisp apple, skin on and chopped (I used a Pink Lady)

Fat free half and half or milk (amount varies – I probably used about 1/4 c)

1/2 c grated smoked provolone (or regular)

1/3 cup less sugar Craisins

1/3 cup toasted chopped pecans (I toast on a dry pan in a toaster oven for a couple minutes and watch carefully so they don’t burn)

Several leaves of fresh sage, finely chopped

Directions

1. Roast the squash, drizzled/sprayed with EVOO, agave nectar, and seasonings to taste at 375 for about 15-20 minutes or until fork tender.

2. Cook the quinoa according to directions using stock as the liquid. Set aside.

3. Saute the onions in a large skillet over medium heat in the EVOO, season with S/P, and cook until caramelized (about 10 minutes), adding in the garlic towards the end.

4. Add the apples and greens until just wilted.

5. Add and combine the cooked quinoa and roasted squash.

6. Add the grated cheese and H&H/milk until everything comes together and is melty.

7. Stir in the craisins, pecans, and sage.

I think what I love about this meal is not only is it fairly quick and simple, but it’s sweet, savory, cheesy, crunchy, packed with nutritious goodies, and very filling.  Enjoy, friends!

P.S. Be on the lookout for a showcase of my creative project for my Jesus and the Gospels class this week.  I want to incorporate my blog into my project because the title, Eat Pray Learn, represents the idea behind my concept for the project in a pretty cool way…

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Girls and Grub Weekly Roommate Dinner – Black Bean Burgers

In the midst of craziness that is my life as a probably over-committed college girl, my roommates and I have tried to be consistent on scheduling home-cooked dinners together a couple times a week.  It’s always great to be able to look forward to some enjoyable down-time of food and fellowship.

Now that it’s the third week of the semester, my day-to-day schedule and activities have quickly picked up the pace, and I’m finding myself in that stage when my denial and lack of focus gets smacked by inescapably real obligations.

For the most part, I really am enjoying all my classes so far, and my new job has been going great. My biggest concern right now is a little thing called a 10-page biblical/textual/research paper (on ANYthing on Jesus and the Gospels) that’s very daunting with a rapidly approaching due date. When my class was asking about the length and depth of the paper, my professor (who’s actually really awesome but still intimidating at times) simply commented, “You could write an entire doctoral thesis on one verse in the Bible.” I’m sure I’ll write another post soon about this impossibly challenging but hopefully rewarding assignment. Sorry I went off a little, but I guess you can tell what’s on my brain at the moment.

Well what’s the best way to unwind from an eventful couple of days? Cook up some burgers and chips. Not your average-Joe burgers and chips, though. I made Skinnytaste’s black bean burgers with a few tweaks here and there and a side of fresh baked sweet potato chips – good and good for you! I make my own avocado-lime-yogurt sauce for it instead of the exact one listed here, and the basics for my sweet potato chips can be found here. I served the burgers on toasted English muffins and topped them with a combo of sharp cheddar and pepper jack, caramelized onions, and spinach. My nowhere-near-vegetarian friends loved the meal, and an added plus of cooking for my roommates is someone else does the dishes.

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Roasted Veggie Power Salad with Hummus Dressing and English Muffin Croutons

Sunday – a day for rest, refreshment, and recharging for the week ahead.  As much as I would love to say I spend my Sunday afternoons napping, soaking up the summer sun, or reading a good book, that is far from reality most of the time. I do love Sundays because of my amazing church home and always look forward to the much-needed time of worship and a good word. After that though, I usually have to hit the ground running (in today’s case – literally). In a school-minded college student’s vocab, Sunday is code for “Time to catch up on all that studying I didn’t do this weekend.”

This is my brit lit and spanish professors. The joys of summer school..

This is my brit lit and spanish professors. The joys of summer school..

Also, I always seem to wake up with a fresh motivation to workout hard and eat especially healthy on Sundays in an effort to somehow cancel out the weekend’s relaxed mindset of no alarm clocks, the occasional pizza, and social life revolved around fro-yo and coffee shops.  IMG_4122Today I went for my longest run in awhile on the indoor track (after my first half-marathon in March and the dreadful summer months in TX, I definitely let up a lot in my long distance running) which felt surprisingly good, followed by an intense core circuit. I then spent the majority of my afternoon reading Middle English literature and writing another lack-luster essay for my summer class.  I did get to enjoy a time of catching up with a close friend who I haven’t seen all summer and has been living a much more adventurous life than me the past couple of months.  I’ve definitely been living vicariously through my friends’ thrilling summers via Facebook and Instagram pics.  To keep my healthy trend rolling, I had this made in time for dinner to sit down to my one TV show I’ve still made time for this summer, The Next Food Network Star. I threw this salad together and it was just too good not to share.  Again, this is a “non-recipe,” since salads are almost always very versatile and it’s not like you can really mess it up.  Remember that hummus I was so excited about last time? It’s back! (I made a slightly different batch since then, but same idea).

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Ingredients

Broccoli

Cauliflower

Yellow Squash

Olive oil

Balsamic vinegar

S&P/Italian herb blend/garlic/crushed red pepper

Grated Romano

Spring Mix Greens

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus (check my last post out)

Lemon

Light agave

Half an English muffin

Directions

For the veggies, roughly chop, season, drizzle (or spray) with olive oil, a couple splashes balsamic vinegar, and a light dusting of Romano. Roast at 375 for about 15 minutes or until done to your preference.  For the dressing, I used a couple tablespoons of hummus and thinned it out with extra lemon juice, a splash of balsamic, and just a touch of agave for sweetness.   Then I microwaved it for 20 seconds just to meld the flavors together (I’m a fan of warm toppings and dressing for certain salads).  Cut the muffin into small cubes and toss with about a teaspoon of oil, spices, and a pinch of Romano.  Bake/toast at 350 (I did these in the toaster oven while the veggies were roasting) for about 15 minutes or until golden brown and slightly crunchy but still with the good doughy “chew” of an English muffin.  Top a heaping bed of greens with the veggies, a generous drizzle of the hummus, the fresh croutons, and a final dusting of Romano. Dig in and enjoy this light but flavorful salad, perfect for summer.

BBQ Sweet Potato Chip Nachos

Call me crazy, but these three glorious things good on their own came together as one incredible unit of major flavor that can still be enjoyed guilt-free.  This was one of those nights when I didn’t really have a real meal prepped or even thought up in advance, and it was already getting pretty late.  I knew I wanted to watch the NBA finals game, so of course my mind and cravings went straight to sports-related unhealthy snacking food perfect for vegging out on the couch. After looking in every cabinet and fridge drawer, I somehow managed to put this concoction together in my mind and immediately ran with it.  I’ve been having a recent obsession with combining two of my favorite flavors – sweet potato and BBQ – and it never turns out bad. Why not eat an entire plate’s worth of sweet potato chips (but just from one medium potato), top it with some tasty vegetables and cheese, and call it dinner?

Ingredients

1 small/medium sweet potato

1 T olive oil

Spices of choice to taste for chips (I did S&P, cumin, garlic powder, Adobo blend, truvia)

1/2 small onion, sliced thin or chopped

1/2 bell pepper, chopped (any color)

1/3 c chopped red cabbage

1/2 oz shredded reduced fat sharp cheddar

1/2 oz shredded part-skim mozzarella

1/2 oz reduced fat feta crumbles

1-2 T BBQ sauce

1 green onion, chopped

Handful of chopped fresh cilantro

Directions
Preheat oven to 425 (I started here and ended up turning down to 400 towards the end to try to keep them from burning too quickly). After washing potatoes, slice uniformly with a mandolin on almost the thinnest setting.  You want them to crisp up but be able to hold the toppings. Rinse with water to remove some of the starch and dry thoroughly.  Place potatoes in a gallon ziploc and add 1/2 T olive oil.  Close and shake the bag to coat evenly.  Add spices and shake again.  Spread out onto one or two sprayed baking pans in a single layer and bake for 15-20 minutes, keeping an eye on them and flipping halfway.  Heat the other 1/2 T oil in a skillet over low/medium heat.  Add onion and seasonings (I did same as chip flavorings) and let caramelize a few minutes.  Add peppers and cook another couple of minutes.  Finally add the cabbage right at the end just to soften it a bit.  In a microwavable bowl, add all the cooked veggies, BBQ sauce, and mix of cheeses.  Microwave on high 30-45 seconds or until cheese is melted and BBQ sauce is warm.  Arrange the sweet potato chips on a plate (yes, ALL those are for you) and top with cheesy BBQ veggie mixture.  Top with fresh green onions and cilantro and sit down to a seemingly unhealthy, “snack-y” meal full of chips and cheese that’s actually good for you! After all, the sweet potato has been deemed “the perfect food.” Don’t feel bad for eating nachos for dinner because in reality it’s tons of vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, and healthy fats!

P.S. You might need a fork 🙂

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