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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Eight Ball Squash Stuffed with Bacon Pesto Quinoa

My mother came over this week with a large shopping bag stuffed full of fresh cut basil. It had just been picked and she needed to off load half of it to a willing taker. Of course I did not hesitate to unload some of her bounty. But in order to be able to use the entirety of basil that she brought before it spoiled I knew I would need to make some fresh pesto that I could freeze and enjoy year round. And thats exactly what I did.

As I sat looking at my mammoth tupperware container of pesto sauce to freeze I decided that before placing it in my freezer to sit a spell, I would try to use a bit of it for dinner. And it must have been my lucky week because not only did my mother bring me heaps of fresh basil but some friends came down from Sacrament and brought us some fresh vegetables from their garden. And it was when the eight ball squash, that they had brought, caught my eye that everything started to fall into place.

It seems I always have a mental inventory of what is in my refrigerator, freezer and cupboards at all times...and by doing so, it allows for brief moments of inspiration when ingredients just fly out of my rolodex and into an incredible recipe. Oh boy thats what happened this time! I combined my fresh pesto with some quinoa and for a little sinful addition I added some bacon, cheese, onion and mushrooms. I stuffed it all into my hollowed squash and then topped these cuties off with an extra layer of cheese just to send it over the edge. Divine, warm, hearty, comforting and tasty, all wrapped up in one cute round eight ball squash!

Eight Ball Squash Stuffed with Bacon Pesto Quinoa

5 eight ball squash, tops removed and hollowed out
1 cup cooked quinoa
heaping 1/4 cup pesto sauce
6 slices bacon
2 cups mushrooms, rough chop
1 cup onions, diced
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
salt and pepper
1/2 cup chicken stock

Cook your quinoa according to package directions and add a heaping 1/4 cup of pesto; stir to combine. Cook your bacon strips in a large pan until golden and just beginning to crisp. Remove bacon from pan and cut into bite size pieces once cooled. Keep the bacon fat in the pan and add the onion and sauté until translucent; add mushrooms and sauté for about 4 minutes. Add the onion mixture to the quinoa along with the bacon and cheese. Stir to combine and taste for needed salt and pepper. 
Pre heat your oven to 350 degrees. Cut the tops off of your squash and hollow out the centers.

Stuff your squash with the quinoa mixture and place into an oven safe dish.

Pour your chicken stock into the pan about a 1/4 in depth. Place int he oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and place a slice of mozzarella cheese on top of each squash. Place back in the oven for an additional 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Glassless Clothespin Frame

When I was around 4 or 5 my parents enrolled me in a summer art class at a local zoo. Each class we used different mediums to paint with and used the animals as our muses. Come to find out almost 30 years later and my mother had still kept all of my art! I was really excited to see all of the paintings but what excited me most of all was the idea I had to frame some of them and hang them in Easton's room. I hung one of the paintings above his changing table, which later became a serious problem when he grabbed ahold of it one day, causing it to fall and crack the glass. Easton thankfully was not hurt in the slightest but I knew at that moment that a large frame containing glass within his reach was probably not the brightest of ideas. 
I hated to throw away the frame, it was still in great condition, but I didn't really want to take it to a glass shop to have it fitted for a new piece. Thats when I decided to use it as a glassless frame to showcase Easton's artwork as well as any art his cousins or little friends gave him. I simply kept the matte from the frame and glued clothespins on to it so that I could attach anything that would hang. 
It turned out great and Easton loves admiring all of his masterpieces. Best of all you can change out the art as often as you want!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Brown Butter Brussels Sprouts with Thyme & Pistachio Nuts

I think brussels sprouts are just about the cutest things ever. They are mini little cabbages wrapped up in a cute little package. But rumor has it that brussels sprouts aren't exactly winning over the hearts or taste buds of children or adults. I would venture to say that how you are cooking your brussels sprouts has a lot to do with that, not to mention whether you are using fresh or frozen brussels sprouts. They have so much potential and can be stir fried, sautéed, roasted or steamed. They work with just about any flavor palates  and are a great source of vitamins and anticancer agents. All in all they are a killer veggie, and by killer I mean awesome!

Normally I like to sauté my brussels sprouts with some bacon or onions but this time I decided to switch it up a bit. I tossed them in some browned butter and fresh thyme and sprinkled them with some salty pistachio nuts. Lets be real, put brown butter on most anything and you will have me licking my plate clean! It is so aromatic and sweet...who knew butter could taste so good! The pistachio nuts add a great unexpected taste and texture to the brussels sprouts and pair deliciously with the butter and thyme. Go ahead, give brussels sprouts another try, they might just become your new favorite vegetable!

Brown Butter Brussels Sprouts with Thyme and Pistachio Nuts

1 1/2 pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half
1/4 cup butter
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1/4 cup pistachio nuts, roughly chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Grill your brussels sprout on your BBQ for about 10 minutes or until just tender. If you do not have a BBQ or prefer to steam them, do so for about 10 minutes as well. Meanwhile melt your butter in a large skillet over medium high heat watching carefully until your butter begins to bubble up, brown slightly and give off a nutty aroma. Add the lemon juice and thyme and turn heat down to low. Add your brussels sprouts and stir until everything is warmed through. Salt to taste. Plate your brussels sprouts and sprinkle with chopped pistachio nuts.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Prosciutto Stuffed Artichokes

Growing up my parents fed us a serious variety of foods. I'm talking foods that most parents might not eat let alone decide to feed their children. Now don't get the wrong idea, my mother and father were not feeding us road kill or anything disgusting or harmful but they did make sure to feed us obscure vegetables, uncommon spices and a variety of dishes that one might not consider making on a random Monday night. I am so grateful that I was exposed to so many different foods because as an adult I am pretty sure that I can count how many foods I wont eat on half a hand. One being okra. Ugh, sorry for any okra lovers out there but the slime factor is just too much for me to handle!

I can remember having company over for dinner on evening and my mother served steamed artichokes as a side dish. Now your probably thinking ok artichokes are not an uncommon vegetable, and I would agree, but to our company they were. In fact they did not even know what an artichoke was and had obviously never tasted one. It was a very funny experience that I can still vividly remember some 25 years later. 
Growing up we ate our artichokes very simply; just steamed. Sometimes we would have a little mayonnaise on the side to dip our soft meaty leaves into; but other than that, that is as fancy as it got. Now a days I like to add a bit more flavor to my artichokes and this recipe is a favorite of mine. The stuffing has a great combination of flavors including prosciutto, lemon zest, parsley, and garlic to name a few. And the leaves of the artichoke are great accessories for scooping up all of the fallen stuffing. Couldn't be easier, a completely self contained meal and delicious as well!

Prosciutto Stuffed Artichoke

4 artichokes
2 lemons
3 cups panko bread crumbs
3/4 cup pecorino or parmesan cheese
3/4 cup minced prosciutto
4 cloves garlic minced
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon clack pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup olive oil
chicken stock

To prepare the artichokes cut the stem off very close to the base so that the artichoke can stand flat on its own. Cut about a half an inch off of the top of the artichoke and with scissors snip thorny tips from the remaining leaves.
With a spoon, scoop out the choke in the center of the artichokes 
Cut one lemon in half and squeeze into a large bowl of cold water. Toss in the squeezed lemon halves along with the artichokes to prevent discoloration while you make the stuffing.
In a bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, cheese, prosciutto, garlic, parsley, chili flakes, pepper, zest from remaining lemon and olive oil. Taste for salt.

Drain artichokes. Working with one artichoke at at time, set in the bowl of breadcrumb mixture and start to separate the leaves while pushing stuffing inside.

Set the artichokes in a pot fitted with a tight lid. Pour stock in approximately 1/3 of the way up the sides of the artichokes. Bring the stock to a boil, cover pot, and reduce heat to a low simmer. Cook, 30-35 minutes then transfer your pot to the oven to broil for about 7-10 minutes until tops are golden brown. Serve and enjoy!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Framed Family Handprints

I am so in love with this project, for three reasons really...its absolutely adorable, personal, and is now a piece of art work that will be a memory of our family. This is such a great way to freeze your little family in time, via hand prints that is. It couldn't be easier to make either. I used a piece of cream muslin fabric for my background.  You could actually use just about any fabric, plain or patterned. Keep in mind though that you want your hands to stand out, they are the focal point, so you don't want a pattern that will be to distracting.
Once I had my fabric cut to the dimensions that would fit into my frame I frayed the edges for a little interest. Next I individually traced my husbands, my sons, and my hand on pieces of paper. I cut each out and then traced them lightly in pencil on my fabric. Then I chose a color for each of our hands and did a simple chain stitch with embroidery thread and a needle over my traced hands. 
I finished it off with the date at the bottom. And since we have another addition added to our family, I will be adding another little handprint by the end of the year :) And there you have it a fun family project that will always bring back fond memories and a smile to your face.

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