Oat-tastic Cookies with Semisweet Chocolate Chips

It’s been a spell since I last posted, folks. School became pretty intense for a while there: I was blessed with the challenge of creating and carrying out a lesson plan to teach 7th and 8th graders about the connections between sugar consumption, obesity, and diabetes. At first blush this seemed like a straightforward task, but the lines between these three “epidemics” of our nation are more blurred that you might think. Perhaps there will be more on that in another post, this one’s about cookies.

Then last week I had my wisdom teeth taken out, an experience from which I gleaned a deep-seated gratitude for the ability to eat solid food. Even just 6 days of milkshakes, mashed potatoes, and pureed soups left me fantasizing about biting into a juicy cheeseburger or a fish taco or anything with more than a singular taste and texture. I haven’t graduated to caramel apples or chips and salsa yet, but I’m glad to report we made perfectly medium-rare grassfed burgers on the grill last night and I was able to satisfy my craving quite successfully.

And here I am now, on a gray Sunday morning taking in the sounds of robins welcoming spring: cheerily, cheer up, cheer up, cheerily, cheer up and a pot of oatmeal amiably bubbling away on the stove (make that burning away on the stove, oops.)

Today’s recipe is for cookies I shared at dietetic student “eat and greet” (we organized as the dietetics club board a couple weeks ago). Sharing an hour of conversation with smart and dynamic women was a welcome respite from the harried school week. But I think maybe it was the promise of these cookies that auspiciously brought us all together. 😉

Oat-tastic Chocolate Chip Cookies

I found the recipe in a cookbook I borrowed from the library: The Kinfolk Table. It calls for vegetable shortening rather than the more commonplace butter. The payoff is a denser, more robust chew that preserves the luscious, fat-coated crumb of classic oatmeal cookies.

The oatmeal to flour ratio in these bad boys is 3:1, perfect for cookies that are both acceptable breakfast fare and nearly-guiltless nighttime snack. I switched out the AP flour for whole wheat pastry, my MO for most all baked goods. The vegetable shortening I use is a non-hydrogenated, organic palm oil made by Spectrum, who quells my fears of being an accomplice to orangutan murder with this pleasant blurb: “we craft our shortening from sustainably harvested organic palm oil sourced from dozens of small family farmers in Colombia.” (Palm oil has a rather complex reputation which you can read about here.) That said, if you’re leery of the ingredient you can certainly use butter, the texture will just be slightly different, as noted by the original recipe’s author.

Kinfolk Table cookbook

The recipe note also recommends combining all ingredients by hand, stating that using an electric mixer will alter the intended texture. (I gather the texture is paramount to the success of these cookies.) I must disclose I still used my Kitchen Aid to cream the butter and sugars, but the rest of the ingredients I mixed in manually.

The dough should be refrigerated for at least one hour before baking to ensure, you guessed it, optimal texture. For a fascinating NYT read on how cookie outcomes improve as dough is allowed longer fridge time, click here. Well, this post has taken me almost two hours to write, so I’m just going to get down to the recipe now, which is what you came here for anyway, right?

Oat-tastic Cookies with Semisweet Chocolate Chips

adapted from Julie Pointer’s recipe in The Kinfolk Table
Makes about 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup organic vegetable shortening, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs, beaten
1½ cups whole wheat pastry flour
3 cups whole rolled oats (not quick cooking)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Oat-tastic Chocolate Chip Cookies

Method:

In a large bowl, combine the sugars and shortening and mix until creamy. Add in the vanilla, salt, baking soda, and eggs, and stir until just combined.

Combine the flour, oats, and chocolate chips. Incorporate these into the wet ingredients in three or four additions, stirring until mixture is more or less uniform. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour until the dough is chilled and firm.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place a rack in the center of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Using a spoon, or in my case a melon-baller, scoop the dough into approximately 2 tablespoon spheres and place them on the prepared baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Press the dough down gently with your fingertips.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until the cookie edges just begin to brown, rotating the sheets halfway through if your oven bakes unevenly.

Transfer the baking sheets to a rack and cool for 5 minutes then transfer the cookies directly to the rack and cool completely, about 30 minutes (eat at least three before they cool).

Serve or store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Oat-tastic Chocolate Chip Cookie // funkybeetss

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Syrian Sliha aka Nutty Pomegranate Wheat Berry Breakfast Bowl

I got this cookbook, see?

Grain Mains cookbook

And I’ve been browsing its pages over the past couple weeks, filling my head with visions of barley mac n’ cheese, polenta coffee cake, and quinoa date bread.  There has been a mini-miracle as well.  Do you ever have those quietly lovely internal celebrations when you read through an enticing recipe and realize you presently have every ingredient it calls for? I do. I did! And so I made this.

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The cookbook titles this recipe Syrian Sliha.  According to the authors, Sliha is a dish eaten by Damascus Jews to celebrate a baby’s first teething… interesting, no?  It wasn’t so much the name of the dish or its backstory that grabbed me, but the beautiful array of colors and textures boasted by the gorgeous full-page photograph.

…and the fact that I auspiciously had every last thing on the somewhat exotic ingredient list.

pine nuts, pistachios, walnuts

This grain salad of sorts brings some serious flavor to the breakfast table.  Its lead character is soft white wheat berries*, a varietal typically used to make one of my favorite flours: whole wheat pastry.

soft white wheat berries

Wheat berries are satisfyingly chewy and slightly sweet with a hint of nuttiness which echoes the toasty pistachios, pine nuts and walnuts. Then of course come the toasted fennel seeds, lacing the dish with a haze of anise, the shredded coconut, lending tropicalness and texture, and pomegranate arils: the perfect juicy-tangy foil for all those rich nuts. Cinnamon, maple syrup, and coarse salt round out the closest thing your taste buds may ever experience to a full-on breakfast rock symphony in surround sound.

Oh please, don’t let me forget the yogurt.  After everything I just said, this dish is nothing without a very generous dollop of whole milk yogurt atop its colorful peak.  I’m not kidding. If you don’t have access to yogurt, don’t even make this.  Sliha on, Wayne!

Syrian Sliha with yogurt

*Wheat berries are fully intact wheat kernels (aside from the inedible hull) and are the most unprocessed version of wheat you can buy in the supermarket. Wheat berries, like many whole grains, are an excellent source of fiber and B vitamins.  They also contain some healthy fats, yeehaw!  Because of their toughness, wheat berries typically work best when soaked before cooking.  Anywhere between 8 and 12 hours of soaking in lots of room temperature water should do the trick.  I like to soak and cook a big batch of grains on the weekend to help me through busy weeknight dinners.

Syrian Sliha aka Nutty Pomegranate Wheat Berry Breakfast Bowl

Note: I altered “Grain Mains’” recipe by reducing the amount of nuts by half (for calories’ and economy’s sake) while bumping up the coconut and pomegranate.  I chose maple syrup in place of white sugar and toasted the fennel seeds and added them at the end rather than boiling them with the wheat berries as the original recipe suggests.

Ingredients:

1 cup soft white wheat berries, soaked for 8-12 hours, drained and rinsed

2 Tbsp fennel seeds

½ cup shelled, unsalted pistachios

½ cup pine nuts

½ cup chopped walnuts

½ cup pomegranate seeds

½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut

2 Tbsp real maple syrup

1 tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp coarse salt, like kosher

plenty of plain whole milk yogurt for topping

 Method:

1. Dump the soaked and drained wheat berries into a medium saucepan and cover grains by at least 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer until the grains are just tender, about 50 minutes. The wheat berries should barely dance in the water while cooking. Drain the grains in a small-holed colander.

2. While the wheat berries cook, combine the fennel seeds, pistachios, pine nuts, and walnuts in a skillet over medium-low heat. Toast the nuts and seeds, stirring occasionally and guarding them with a watchful eye and alert nose, until they are lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes.

3. Pour the wheat berries into a big bowl, maybe the same one you soaked them in. Then stir in the nuts, seeds, pomegranate arils, coconut, maple syrup, cinnamon, and salt. Let the Sliha come to room temperature before enjoying (with a giant dollop of plain whole milk yogurt, that is!) or “store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for breakfasts (or snacks) in the week to come.” –Grain Mains

Syrian Sliha with yogurt 2

Sliha with yogurt

Sliha beauty shot with yogurt, so good

Homemade Almond Milk and Almond Meal Thumbprint Cookies – plus Quinoa for Breakfast!

I love the fresh feeling that a new year swirls into life.  Even though I don’t have a laundry list of resolutions this go round, I’m laced with the desire to take small steps of self improvement.  One that’s been on my mind is increasing my self-sufficiency, becoming less reliant on convenience and ready-made products and more apt to make things myself or improvise with something I’ve already got.  It’s so easy for me to go to the store any time and buy most ANY thing I want or need, but what if I first comb through a few forgotten basement alternatives or YouTube how to fix the thing I already have, or gosh, even just hit up Goodwill before heading to Target?  I figure this could be good for my soul and my pocketbook.

Another small change I’d like to work on is generating less food waste.  This summer I read Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal which embraces economical cooking: not wasting the parts of food we tend to throw away.  I tried some of her tricks but then got a little lazy (and also tired of all the broccoli stems and cauliflower cores building up in my fridge), but I’m willing to try again with some New-Year-zaza energy!

The recipes that follow are manifestations of these two small changes: homemade almond milk to prove I can do it myself (without carageenan and potassium sorbate to boot!) and almond meal thumbprint cookies to showcase how delicious and worth keeping the “byproduct” of almond milk can be.  Then, in celebration of all our New Year clean-eating intentions, there’s a recipe for tummy-friendly quinoa breakfast porridge simmered with chocolate almond milk and topped with pecans and cinnamon.  Happy New Year.

freshly soaked almonds

Homemade Almond Milk

Ingredients: 

2 cups almonds

6 cups filtered water

pinch of salt

optional add-ins: cinnamon, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, maple syrup

almond nuggets of joy

Method:

1. In a large bowl, cover almonds with 2 inches of water.  Let soak for 8-12 hours.

2. Drain and rinse almonds.

3. In a blender, combine 2 cups almonds and 6 cups filtered water. Blend on high speed for 3 minutes, or until almonds are completely pulverized and liquid is milky in color and consistency.  Add salt and any flavorings and blend on low until incorporated.

4. To strain almond milk, set a strainer over a large bowl or pitcher. Line strainer with cheesecloth.  Slowly pour the milk from the blender into the lined strainer, watching to make sure it doesn’t overflow.

5. Allow milk to drain for a minute or so.  Now, the fun part: gather cheesecloth ends to form a pouch, making sure the almond meal is totally enclosed in the cloth.  Next, with clean hands squeeze the pouch in all different spots, wringing out every last drop of milk.

6. Transfer your almond milk to an airtight container and store in the fridge.  Shake well before use.  It should last about a week!

*To utilize the leftover almond meal, heat your oven to 200°F.  Pour almond meal out of the cheesecloth onto a baking sheet with raised sides and spread it into an even layer.  Dry almond meal in the oven for about 30 minutes, stirring every 10.  Almond meal is done when fluffy and mostly dry but not crispy or sand-like.*

almond meal

Almond Meal Thumbprint Cookies 

makes about 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

½ cup unsalted butter, softened

¾ cup natural cane sugar

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla extract

½ tsp almond extract

¼ tsp sea salt

almond meal from 3 cups almonds (~2 cups meal)

jam or preserves of choice (I used raspberry jam, because raspberry and almonds are the KimYe of baking, duh.)

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F and cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, combine softened butter and sugar.  Whisk until light and fluffy.  Stir in the egg, vanilla, almond extract, and salt.  Add the almond meal and stir to combine, making sure there are no dry spots.

3. Gently roll dough into tablespoon-sized balls and place on your cookie sheet at least two inches apart. Make a “thumbprint” in the middle of each cookie.

4. Bake cookies for 9-10 minutes or until they’re just beginning to crack and brown slightly.

5. While cookies are still cooling, fill the thumbprints with about ½ – 1 teaspoon of jam.  Cool completely before serving.  I also made some without jam and they are almost as delicious.

almond meal cookies IMG_0746

Quinoa Breakfast Porridge

Ingredients:

½ cup quinoa, rinsed

¾ cup almond milk

¼ cup water

¼ tsp cardamom

½ tsp cinnamon

pinch of salt

toppings of choice (see below)

Method:

1. In a small saucepan, combine quinoa, milk, water, spices and salt.

2. Bring mixture to a boil for a few seconds, then reduce heat to a low simmer and cover, cooking for 15 minutes.

3. Turn off heat and allow quinoa to sit covered for another 15 minutes.  After sitting, remove pan lid and fluff quinoa with a fork.

4. Serve this quinoa porridge warm with more homemade almond milk poured over the top (chocolate almond milk preferred!).  Other yummy toppings include: chopped nuts, banana slices, maple syrup, and more cinnamon.

quinoa for breakfast

Red Cabbage Gratin

Not long ago, I went on a gratin-pinning spree.   If you don’t know what that sentence means, you’re probably reading the wrong blog.  Just kidding, mom!  To my Pinterest page of recipes, I added kale and sweet potato gratin, Brussels sprouts gratin, and the beauty I’m featuring today: red cabbage gratin.  In case you’ve not had the pleasure of knowing a gratin, it’s a food preparation “in which an ingredient is topped with a browned crust, often using breadcrumbs, butter, and grated cheese” (Wikipedia).  Random aside: in grade school, the cafeteria served a mysteriously orange offering called “potatoes au gratin.”  All the kids called it “potatoes o’ rotten.”  ‘Nuff said.

head of red cabbage

Any gratin worth making is a vegetable one, in my humble opinion.  And this why when I discovered a slideshow featuring just these sorts of dishes over at the Saveur website, I went on the aforementioned pinning spree.  At the time I found these recipes, the trees had just begun their wardrobe change and the air was only beginning to resemble a Honeycrisp apple.  Now it’s full-fledged comfort food season, and with Thanksgiving right around the corner, there’s nothing more welcome in my oven or my tummy than a casserole dish of cheesy, crispy, gooey vegetables.

Lest you be nervous to try a dish starring cooked cabbage, let me just tell you that the flavor of this dish is sublime, thanks no doubt to the Parmesan and breadcrumbs.  But even more special is the tender chew and sweet, nutty aroma of the red cabbage after being bathed in paprika-spiked cream for an hour or so.  Saveur recommends serving this eye-catching purple beaut’ alongside roast pork, turkey, or lamb (perhaps as awesomely out-of-the-box Turkey Day fare), but I think it would stand up just fine as a meal with a green salad and some seedy crusty bread.   This is the type of dining I like to do the night after Thanksgiving: something healthy, yet naughty enough to gently ease you off that gluttonous cliff that is the holidays.   Cheers!

sliced red cabbage

Recipe modified slightly from Saveur

Red Cabbage Gratin

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened

7 cups shredded red cabbage (about 1 small head, medium shred)

1 ½ cups half and half

2 tsp. Hungarian (sweet) paprika

1 tsp. sugar

½ tsp. freshly grated pepper

salt to taste (go easy; you can always sprinkle on more just before eating)

topping:

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

½ cup finely chopped almonds (hello, food processor)

½ cup toasted whole wheat bread crumbs (props if you make your own; I used Gia Russa brand)

 Method:

1. Preheat your oven to 350°F.  Grease a 3-quart baking dish with one tablespoon of the butter.  Put the shredded cabbage into the greased pan and set aside.

2.  In a 1 quart or larger saucepan, combine the half and half, sweet paprika, sugar, salt and pepper.  Heat mixture over medium heat until it just begins to simmer and steam.

3. Pour hot cream mixture over cabbage and stir to distribute evenly.

4. Toss together Parmesan, chopped almonds, and breadcrumbs in a bowl; sprinkle evenly over the creamy cabbage.  (It may seem like a lot of topping, but trust me, use all of it.) Dot the top of the gratin with remaining one tablespoon butter.  Feel free to drizzle with olive oil if it seems a bit dry.

5.  Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake the gratin until the cabbage is pleasantly tender and most of the half and half is absorbed, around 45 minutes.  Then, take off the foil and turn the oven up to 400°F and bake 10-15 minutes more, until the breadcrumb-cheese-nut mixture is thoroughly browned and crispy.  Let the gratin cool at least 10 minutes before serving.

sliced red cabbage 2

red cabbage gratin

red cabbage gratin 2

Three Seed Nutty Date Trail Bars

Into the great wide open
Under them skies of blue
Out in the great wide open
A rebel without a clue

-Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Nutty Date Trail Bars

This weekend, there’s a camping trip on the calendar.  We’re headed to Buckhorn Lake State Park and this soul just can’t wait to sprawl out in the woods.  I’ll be hitting the trails with three amazing people and there’s going to be a great deal of delicious food.  My darling friend Chetney, a fellow dietetics student and a killer cook (who also blogs over at http://czesiaeats.blogspot.com/), and her husband Marc will be tenting alongside Brandon and I.  (camp food recipe series to come!)

Amid buzzing from task to task in preparation for the trip, I baked some hearty, nutty, just-sweet-enough trail bars to keep up our energy as we leg along the paths, float in the lake, or crush PBR cans by firelight.

This recipe is a slight modification of the “almond date breakfast bars” I found in The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. I used spelt flour in place of whole wheat, sunflower seed butter rather than almond butter, added flax, chia and sunflower seeds and vanilla extract in place of half the almond extract.  Thank you, Deb for the excellent recipe.

If you have any road trips or epic hikes in your future, or just lots of busy mornings, I highly recommend baking up a batch of these angels.  According to The Smitten Kitchen, they freeze well too, so make a double batch while you’re at it.

I like to get most of the ingredients in these bars in the bulk section of a natural foods or well-stocked grocery store.  It’s cheaper, uses less packaging and I find the staples like oats and wheat germ are always really fresh.

Three Seed Nutty Date Trail Bars

makes 32  two-inch square bars

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups chopped dried pitted dates

2 1/2 quick rolled oats

6 Tbsp whole spelt flour

2/3 cup wheat germ

1/2 cup cashew halves and pieces

1/4  cup flax seeds

2 Tbsp chia seeds

1/4 cup sunflower seeds

1/2 tsp table salt

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 cup sunflower seed butter

1/2 cup olive or coconut oil

1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp honey

1/4 tsp freshly grated orange zest

1/4 tsp almond extract

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Method:

Preheat your lovin’ oven to 350 F. Line an 9×13 glass (preferably) or metal pan with parchment paper, allowing it to hang off the end on two sides.  Or, if you have no parchment paper like moi, grease the pan generously with fat of choice.

Use your clean hands to combine the dates, oats, flour, wheat germ, almonds, cashews, flax seeds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl.  The dates like to stick together in clusters, much like teenagers, but they must be convinced to venture out on their own into the world of oats and nuts, so break them up with your fingers and ignore the comments about how they’re never talking to you again.

In a separate smaller bowl, whisk together the sunbutter, olive oil, honey, orange zest, and almond and vanilla extracts until smooth. Pour the wet over the dry ingredients, and muscularly stir them together with a rubber spatula until the dry ingredients no longer dry.

nutty date trail bars2

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, then use some plastic wrap or your clean hands to smush the mixture firmly onto the bottom, edges, and corners of the pan.

Bake the bars for 20 to 25 minutes, until they are light brown around the edges. They’ll still seem soft in the center but don’t fret – they’ll firm up nicely once completely cool.

Let the bars cool in their pan on a cooling rack.

Once cool, use a serrated knife to cut the bars into squares (or rectangles if you wish). If you start cutting the bars, and they begin to crumble, put them in the fridge for an hour or two and try again.  If this doesn’t work, congratulations, you just made some awesome granola.

nutty date trails bars3trails bars all bagged up

Happy trails.  ❤

Lemony Kale Pesto with Walnuts

I wanted to write something profound about how I often miss the way I felt in church as a kid on Easter Sunday.  The way the trumpets and lilies and hymns stirred my kid soul and made me joyful.  I want to pay homage to those memories, those experiences, but couldn’t find exactly the right words to do so.  So I will simply offer that as a grown up, I’ve gladly realized closeness with the divine has no boundaries. We all just have to find our temples.

march 30 012

No matter how you choose to celebrate it, Easter can mark a day of renewal, of rebirth.  Check in with your New Year’s resolutions.  Do some deep-belly breathing before you get out of bed.  Let the sun shine on your face for an extra minute or two.  See the beauty in being alive today.  Make a healthy meal to nourish your body and share it with loved ones to nourish your soul.

march 30 023

I offer you this pesto recipe which you can whip up and use as the base for a springy salad to bring to tomorrow’s festivities.  In this way, you will effectively help counterbalance the salty ham, cheesy potatoes and Cadbury cream eggs.  Don’t even get me started on Peeps.

Lemony Kale and Walnut Pesto

This pesto is great on lots of things.  I used it as the dressing for a cold farro salad studded with golden raisins, currants, toasted walnuts, and chopped roasted red pepper.   Try it on your leftover hard-boiled Easter eggs.  Stir it generously into penne pasta, or slather it on boiled potatoes and throw in some chopped black olives for a quick, greened-up potato salad.

Ingredients:

2 bunches kale (any variety will work but let’s be honest, most of us prefer dinosaur, right?)

2-3 cloves garlic

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

½ cup toasted walnuts or other nut of choice

Juice of one large lemon or two small guys

2/3 cup olive oil …ish

salt to taste

water as needed

march 30 027 march 30 028

Method:

Bring a large (3  quart or bigger) pot of salted water to a rolling boil.

Wash your kale.  Cut off the thick, lower portion of the stems and discard or save for another use. Roughly chop the leaves.

Peel your garlic and drop the cloves into the boiling water.  This will take the bad-breath edge off, amazing!  Then throw all the chopped kale into the pot and use a wooden spoon to make sure everyone is dunked under the water.

Continue cooking kale for about 30 SECONDS, and then quickly retrieve it along with the garlic cloves using a slotted spoon or strainer and drain well.  Save the kale cooking water!

*blanching the kale in this way will denature the enzymes that will eventually turn your kale pesto that nasty shade of olive green/brown as well as tone down the “grassy” flavor, which is nice if you’re serving to a diverse audience (read: picky)*

Use a clean dish towel or paper towel to blot the kale dry and then put it all in a blender along with the garlic, grated cheese, walnuts, lemon juice, and olive oil.  Blend until the consistency resembles a milk shake, adding some of the kale cooking water as needed to move things along.

Once you get the desired consistency, taste the pesto and add salt until it tastes just right.

Pour your pesto into a jar for later use or directly onto some farro or other hearty grain for a great salad/ side dish for your Easter feast!

march 30 030

march 30 040

Butternut Squash Pasta with Goat Cheese and Toasted Sage Pecans

I spend more time than the average person thinking about food, I’m almost certain of it.  Before falling asleep and upon waking, I’m deciding what breakfast is going to be.  At school, at work, while making other food, I’m concocting dinner ideas, sometimes pondering ways to eek out a meal from the few things I’ve got left lying around the fridge when grocery shopping hasn’t happened for a while, other times staring at a lone butternut squash from the CSA box, trying to think of a novel way to use all that remains of our 20-week adventure of eating local produce.

I wanted to honor this beautiful squash, this bright orange beauty that turned dewy and permeated the kitchen with a sweet, musky scent as soon as I sliced it open.  So I invented something, though I’m sure the flavors have met before in other kitchen.  It’s something I’d call comfort food – like macaroni and cheese, but better.  I scribbled the game plan on an index card and got to work.

This is the kind of food we want to fill our bellies with when the weather gets feisty.  It’s pasta that has lots going on (which I love since I get bored easily when eating a lot of the same thing.)  It’s goat-cheese creamy, pecan crunchy, sage earthy, nutmeg spicy and butternut sweet, and a little nutty thanks to the addition of brown butter which in my opinion really put it over the edge of awesome.  To counter the richness of the dish, serve it with an easy mixed green salad and some pear slices.

Butternut squash and goat cheese pasta with toasted sage pecans

Prep: 35 mins   Cooking time:  a hour or so

Serves 4, probably with some leftovers

Roasted squash:

1 butternut squash, halved with seeds scooped out

2 tablespoons coconut oil or butter

1 teaspoon coarse salt

½ teaspoon grated nutmeg

Pasta

8 oz (1/2 package) whole wheat linguini noodles

1 cup pasta water, reserved

3 tablespoons butter

1 small onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

3-4 leaves sage, en chiffonade

½ cup pecans, chopped

¾ cup crumbled goat cheese

freshly grated nutmeg

salt and pepper to taste

Method

Pre-heat oven to 475° F.

Place squash halves skin side down on a foil-lined baking sheet.

Rub squash flesh (inside part) with coconut oil or butter; you want a nice even layer of fat.

Sprinkle squash liberally with coarse salt and grated nutmeg.

Place squash (on baking sheet) into the pre-heated oven and roast until you can easily poke a fork through the thickest part of the squash’s flesh, (but squash is somewhat firm, not mushy) about 30-40 minutes.

Allow squash to cool.

Remove skin from squash. It should peel off pretty easily, but you may need to slice some off with your knife too.

Dice squash into ½ inch cubes and store in fridge until you’re ready to prepare the meal.  (I made my squash in the morning, went about my day, and then prepared this dish that evening for dinner.)

Boil a large pot of salted water for pasta.

Once water is boiling, add half a package (8 oz) whole wheat linguini noodles.

While pasta cooks melt 3 tablespoons butter in a skillet over low heat.  Continue to cook butter very slowly until it takes on a nutty, almost sweet smell.

Add the garlic and onion to browned butter and turn up heat slightly to sauté the alliums for about 5 minutes under tender and slightly brown.

Add nutmeg, salt and pepper to skillet, allowing spices to toast for a minute.

Add sage and pecans, and a drizzle of olive oil if things are getting dry.  Stir and cook for about 3 minutes, until sage is wilted and nuts are toasted and shiny.

When pasta is al dente, remove from heat and drain, reserving a cup of the pasta water.

Return pasta to pot and add cubed squash, goat cheese and half the pasta water.  Turn on heat to medium low and stir to combine.

Add the pecan and sage mixture from skillet into pasta pot, making sure to get all the butter and browned bits using a spatula.  Add remaining pasta water as needed and stir to combine.

Taste for salt and adjust as needed.

Top each serving with a few whole pecans and a bit of goat cheese.   Enjoy!