easy butternut squash & goat cheese spread.

after having looked at the word ‘squash’ for the last 10 minutes…..whoa. that’s a weird one.

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oh, you butternut squash and your versatile ways.

i love eating all kinds of squash during the fall - in sooo many forms! you can roast a whole butternut squash and continue to use it in all kinds of different recipes all week long.

this week on the squash-for-dinner front: pete and i had stuffed acorn squash with arugula, sausage & goat cheese one night, butternut squash in a big salad the next night, spaghetti squash with pesto the next night, and spaghetti squash crisped up with pulled pork, corn & salsa the next night.

and the shirt i’m wearing right now is squash colored. I AM SQUASH.

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this dip/spread is so simple and you only really need 2 or 3 ingredients, but you can spruce it up with some other fun stuff like lemon, green onion, sunflower seeds or pepitas for texture!

if you prefer feta cheese over goat cheese, that would be a great substitute.

serving this warm and fresh on toasty bread is quite cozy & delightful. it also goes great with different veggies for dipping!

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Easy Butternut Squash & Goat Cheese Spread

Yields 2-3 cups

Total Time: 45 minutes, Active Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 a medium/large butternut squash, seeded and roasted

  • 5 oz. soft goat cheese

  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt

  • lemon juice or 1 tsp. white vinegar (optional, for acidity)

  • green onion (optional topping)

  • pepitas (optional topping)

  • sunflower seeds (optional topping)

Instructions-

To roast the squash, preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Carefully cut the squash in half lengthwise and remove all the seeds. Lightly oil the skin of the squash and poke all over with a fork. Place in a rimmed baking pan skin side up and fill the pan with a little bit of water to create steam and prevent the bottom of the squash from burning. Roast for about 30 minutes, until the squash is fork tender.

Allow the squash to cool for a few minutes and scoop the flesh out of the skin and into a large food processor. Pulse until smooth. Add about 1/4 cup of water to help smooth it out if necessary. Half of a butternut squash will yield about 2 cups of squash purée.

Add the softened goat cheese and salt to the food processor and run/pulse until very smooth.

If you’d like your dip/spread to taste a little more bright, add a squeeze of lemon or a teaspoon or vinegar to wake it up.

Serve warm with toasted baguette, pita or bread of choice & vegetables! Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

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i am one with the squash.

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enjoy!

qp

cabbage chicken pad thai.

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it’s technically like a no-noodle chicken cabbage pad thai curry, but i didn’t wanna throw you off with a weird long title.

also - super almost vegan (just remove chicken & use alt fish sauce) and super customizable in the veggie or protein department!

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AND… best news ever:

i finally figured out the missing flavor in homemade thai dishes that i’ve been searching for FOR-EV-ER.

i have made thai curries at home over and over and over, adding one new ingredient at a time that i always think will be THE ONE missing link, but it’s never been quite right…

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until now.

i have found it. this is the one.

LIME LEAVES, PEOPLE.

lime leaves.

i should have freakin known. there’s a whole thing in that movie no reservations with catherine zeta jones where she’s a chef and she hauls her chef boyfriend all over town looking for her signature secret ingredient - which ended up being kaffir lime leaves.

i knew it somewhere deep in my head.

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i was actually buying thai basil at the store and admiring these edible flowers. i noticed the box of “lime leaves,” took one sniff and i knew that was the flavor i’ve been searching for.

i pretty much ran home and made this right away. i was so excited to discover how much flavor lime leaves give off when you steep them in coconut milk. it’s such a specific taste and it really makes your homemade thai dishes extra legit.

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this is kind of a “curry” recipe because it has the base of a thai curry - then you add a TON of freshly shredded cabbage which soaks up all the coconut milk and all the salty curry flavors to become noodley! and then voila, it is a cabbage pad thai with ALL the right flavors.

at thai restaurants, pete & i usually order panang curry & chicken pad thai - and i always end up mixing them together a bit, so this recipe is kinda like that idea!

the tenderized cabbage actually does a pretty good impression of noodles in this form. i was so pleasantly surprised! just don’t over cook them so they keep a little bit of that al dente crunch & chewy factor.

plz don’t be intimidated by the ingredients list - you can do itttttt. and once you buy all the thai flavors/spices/jars of various things (fish sauce & red curry paste are just staples around here now!), you’ll be making thai food for daaaays.

think of them as a homemade thai food investment.

No-Noodle Cabbage Chicken Pad Thai

Serves 2-4

Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 large chicken breast, thawed & filleted

  • red chili flakes, salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil.

  • 2 cloves or 1 TB garlic, minced

  • 2 TB fresh ginger, minced (or Gourmet Garden Ginger paste)

  • 1 TB Gourmet Garden Lemongrass paste, optional

  • 2 tsp. tamarind concentrate

  • 1 TB fish sauce

  • 1 1/2 TB. Thai red curry paste

  • 6-8 lime leaves, whole or ripped in half

  • 1 can (14 oz) coconut milk

  • 2 heaping cups green cabbage, thinly shredded with mandoline

  • 2 heaping cups purple cabbage, thinly shredded with mandoline

  • 1/2 a red bell pepper, seeded & sliced

  • 1/2 a green bell pepper, seeded & sliced

  • 1/2 cup broccoli florets, optional

  • mung bean sprouts

  • fresh Thai basil, lots!

  • 1/4 cup peanuts, chopped

  • 1 lime

  • fresh mint or cilantro, optional

Instructions -

Using a mandoline, shred the green & purple cabbage until you have at least 2 heaping cups of each. It should be about half a head of each cabbage. Shred or cut it to about the thickness of noodles (not too thin or the cabbage might get soggy).

In a large pan, cook the chicken breast in 1 TB olive oil and garlic on medium heat, seasoning with salt, pepper, and red chili flakes for spice. Cook 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove from pan and allow it to rest on a cutting board before slicing.

In the same pan with the chicken & garlic remnants, add the sliced chicken back into the pan with fresh ginger, lemongrass paste (optional), tamarind concentrate, and red curry paste. Toss well to coat. (***Note: If you’re making this recipe using real noodles instead, cut down the salts by half [salt & fish sauce]. There’s extra sodium here to compensate for the large quantity of raw cabbage.)

Add 1 whole can of coconut milk to the pan and stir. Drop in all the lime leaves and some Thai basil to steep as it simmers on medium/low.

Prepare & slice the remaining veggies, herbs, and toppings.

Toss half of the green & purple cabbage in the coconut milk to coat. The liquid should thicken and become almost gravy-like. Add the remaining cabbage, bell peppers, and broccoli, if using. Toss everything to coat using tongs until the cabbage has tenderized and resembles the consistency of noodles. The liquid from the pan should mostly be soaked up into the cabbage “noodles” when it is ready to eat. You may remove the lime leaves before eating if desired - they are pretty tough to chew.

Divide into servings and top with lots of fresh Thai basil, mung bean sprouts, lime wedges & chopped peanuts. Optional: fresh mint, cilantro, or edible flowers for garnish.

Serve immediately and enjoy leftovers within 1-2 days.

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qp

arugula, steak & cherry summer salad with balsamic glaze.

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wait! i have another summer recipe before it turns to september. 

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this month has been absolutely crazy for me - so much going on in many ways. i meant to share this summery steak salad with cherry a few weeks ago, but here i am squeaking it out on august 29th. 

hope there are still cherries out there to be devoured!

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i discovered that there is a bit of a formula for salads with fruit that really does it for me. and with this formula, it seems the possibilities are plenty.

when i made this, peter goes, "no cherries, please." lol. but he ended up liking the texture/flavor combo. 

i think its taaaasty when adding a bit of fruit to an otherwise all "savory" salad. and it's subtly sweet & juicy!

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salad with fruit formula:

bitter, firm greens (like tenderized kale, arugula, or spinach)

+ different textured vegetable(s) from the greens (example: avocado [i realize that's technically "fruit" but you get it], tomato, or cucumber = contrasting textural feeling from the greens)

+ protein/oomph factor (whether it's steak, or salami, chicken, quinoa, even garbanzo beans or sweet potato i feel add lots of oomph...)

+ mild, salty, creamy cheese (i use feta or goat cheese on most of my salads)

+ a subtly sweet, juicy fruit (like peaches, cherries, apples, plum, blueberries, raspberries...)

+ something briney, vinegary, with bite (like pickled red onions or shallots, balsamic or red wine vinegar...)

+ something small & crunchy (for me that's usually pepitas, but some salads i put almonds or walnuts on top, depending)

+ [optional] fresh herbs (like fresh basil, fresh mint, or cilantro that adds a boost of extra flavor)

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= well rounded salad combinations!

boring salad lifestyle, be gone.

i noticed a through-line between my peach & prosciutto salad and this steak & cherry salad and had to do further analysis. 

do let me know if you come up with a delicious combo that you can apply this super scientific salad formula to :)

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Arugula, Steak & Cherry Summer Salad with Balsamic Glaze

Serves 2

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium steak (I used a thin tri-tip, but use whatever you prefer)
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder
  • 2-3 cups fresh arugula
  • 1 cup fresh cherries, halved & pitted
  • 1 avocado
  • 1/4 cup goat cheese crumbles
  • 2-3 TB balsamic glaze (use about 1/3 cup of balsamic vinegar & reduce on the stove)

Instructions-

To reduce balsamic vinegar, heat about 1/3 cup of balsamic vinegar to a sauce pan on the stove on medium-high until it begins to boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Let it reduce and thicken about 20 minutes, or until the volume has reduced to half. 

Grill the steak on a grill or barbecue, or cook it on the stove. Heat a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in a cast iron pan on medium-high. Sear the steak on each side for about 2-3 minutes, depending how thick it is. Salt, pepper, and sprinkle garlic powder each side. Remove from skillet and let rest on a cutting board for about 5 minutes to allow the juices to rest. 

Halve and remove pits from the cherries.  Slice the avocado.  Add the fresh arugula to a large bowl and toss with a drizzle of olive oil and goat cheese crumbles to coat.

Slice the steak into thin strips and add to the arugula salad. Top with avocado slices, cherries, more goat cheese if desired, and drizzle the balsamic glaze over the top.

Serve immediately!

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happy, happy end of summer.

 

qp