Let’s get real for a second: everyone is a little lazy sometimes.
You are, I am, even BEYONCÉ probably is (okay, Beyoncé probably isn’t, I’m convinced she has no bad days), but it’s okay. Embrace it. I never thought I would be here posting pictures taken on my iPhone of tacos that I stuffed with LEFTOVER CHILI and covered with pretty toppings to hide the fact that, well, chili is perhaps the most hideous food on this earth. Yet, here we are, because life is messy sometimes.
If I were to try to come up with a list of quintessential Fall flavors, I think “spice” would be on the top of the list. Even more important than pumpkin, you say? Well… Yeah. Let’s be honest, pumpkin without spice is kinda like halloween without candy. You can try to fool yourself, but it’s just not as delicious.
Pumpkin spice is also EVERYwhere. And you have to branch out sometime, right? How timely that this month’s Recipe ReDux challenge, “Spooky Spices,” challenged us to do something new with spice. I have never made a Shepherd’s Pie either, and as far as I’m concerned, they’re not exactly the first thing you think of when you hear the word “spices.” But I don’t like going with the norm, so here we are.
I first got the idea while sitting in the airport this weekend waiting for a delayed flight. I was watching “Cutthroat Kitchen” on Netflix (which, by the way, is the best show EVER) and the contestants had to make Shepherd’s Pie amidst a whole slew of sabotages. One guy got his potato privileges revoked and used egg whites to make a meringue topping (ew), and another guy was forced to replace all his protein with beef jerky (EW). This got me thinking, though – what would I have made? It’s fall, and there are so many beautiful varieties of squash available. And so, it was decided – butternut squash Shepherd’s Pie.
For the filling, I used a spice that’s kind of “spooky” for me – Chipotle. I have used dried chipotle powder before (like in this empanada recipe) but I’ve never gone hardcore and used the actual pepper. So, I bought a can of chipotles. Hooooly moly. So spicy. So smoky. Sooooo delicious. I also used another “spooky” ingredient, but it wasn’t a spice – butter. I. KNOW. I don’t think ONE recipe on this blog so far has included butter. But, slowly and surely, I’m starting to appreciate “real” foods that are also for once-in-a-while use, like butter and full-fat dairy products. As long as we don’t go into full Paula Deen mode, butter and I will probably keep our relationship in a healthy place.
This dish came out so unbelievably flavorful and delicious. It’s not your typical Shepherd’s Pie… Dare I say it may be better? The chipotle makes the filling stand-over-the-skillet-and-nosh good, and the squash makes for a deliciously smooth, sweet, and fluffy topping. Can you say go-to meal until further notice? It’s THAT good.
- 2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
- 3 cups peeled and chopped butternut squash (about 1 small squash)
- 2 tbs. melted butter
- 1/4 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 egg
- 1 tbs. olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 lb. lean ground turkey
- 1 large red onion, diced
- 1/2 cup cooked kidney beans
- 3/4 cup sweet corn kernels
- 1 canned chipotle pepper, minced + 3 tsp. sauce from the can
- 2 tbs. tomato paste
- 3/4 cup chicken broth
- 1 tsp. paprika
- 1 tsp. cumin
- Preheat oven to 400˚F.
- Bring potatoes and squash to boil in a pot of water.
- While boiling, heat olive oil and garlic in a deep skillet over low heat.
- Add ground turkey, raising heat to medium. Break up meat and stir until browned.
- Add onion, stirring occasionally until onions begin to soften and become translucent. Add beans and corn.
- Stir in minced chipotle, chipotle sauce, tomato paste, and broth. Make sure the liquid combines evenly.
- Once broth has mostly cooked off, add paprika and cumin, and stir to combine. Lower heat, and let sit for a few minutes.
- Once squash and potatoes are cooked through, drain thoroughly. Mash until smooth with a fork, and then add the butter and cheese and combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Once the mixture has somewhat cooled, add egg and combine well.
- Pour meat mixture into a casserole dish and distribute the squash topping evenly over the top. Be sure to lock in the meat mixture, so none of the juice will bubble up to the top (learned this the hard way)!
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until topping begins to brown.
Back-to-school season. It’s a time for new backpacks, pencils, and books, and a time for that new jean jacket that you wear on the first day “because it’s Fall,” but in reality, is pretty weather-inappropriate. It’s also the return of lunch-packing season.
I have a love/hate relationship with packing my own lunches. On one hand, I love knowing it’s healthier and that the portions are better. And, I feel way more organized when I have my own food packed away. But on the other hand, I just really stink at creativity when it comes to packing lunch. I think to myself, “What if I actually looked forward to something new in my lunch? What if it wasn’t always some variation on greens + protein + beans + grains + avocado + hotsauce? WHAT IF?! The struggle is
real completely first-world.
Well, hey there. Long time no blog.
I hope you’ll forgive my absence. It has been THE craziest two weeks since returning from a month in Texas, but at least it was worth it, since I just took over the lease for my New York City apartment! One of its many amazing attributes is a redone kitchen with LOADS of counter space, and new, FULL SIZED appliances. Such a find is only slightly unheard of, and I’m more than slightly in love. I’ve been told that it’s not possible or legal to marry a kitchen, but together, I truly believe our love can conquer.
Now, BEFORE meeting the kitchen of my dreams, I spent the month of June making music day in and day out. I mean that literally, because I was in rehearsal or practicing every day from when I woke up until I climbed into bed. And I also mean “climbing” literally, because my bed frame was set too high, so getting into bed required climbing onto my desk first. (Short people problems…) In my limited spare time, I was feeding my foodie soul, and feeding it well. Sure, my usual meals consisted of salad or oatmeal in the dining hall (which did, if you’re wondering, get old horribly quickly), but the rest of my meals resulted from convincing my oh-so-patient car-owning friend to drive me to some the best food joints in Houston.
I miss being at the festival and making great music with friends (I also miss the Mexican/Tex-Mex food in Houston – it’s kiiiind of the best – I’m talking to you, Torchy’s Tacos), but it’s quite nice to be back where the temperature is consistently below 100˚F. I REALLY have a whole new appreciation for summer on the East Coast. I got to relive the Texan weather a bit last week while running all around NYC in humid 95˚ heat, but otherwise, it’s quite luxurious to be able to walk from place to place outdoors without fear of melting. It’s also great to be back in the kitchen – not having one readily available is the slowest form of torture for me.
So, naturally, I filled the void by dreaming up a boatload of new summer recipes just for you. And this is the first of (hopefully) many.
I haven’t had many empanadas in my lifetime, but for some reason, the idea of dipping a flaky, doughy pocket of seasoned beef into a summery, fruity salsa just seemed very appealing the other day. Also, grilled fruit is one of my favorite summer foods, and I can guarantee you that this won’t be my only recipe this summer featuring it.
This recipe is probably one of my absolute favorites to date, and I will definitely be bringing it back. My parents and brother are my best taste testers (and also the most honest), so in accordance with their approval, I’m sure this would be a hit as an appetizer at the big, fancy dinner parties that I never have. But who knows, living in New York with a dining table that can sit six (generously) might change things for me.
This recipe is labor intensive, I cannot lie. But, the fruits of your labor will be well worth it at the end, I promise! And to me, food just tastes better when a little sweat went into it. Not literally.
- 2.5 cups whole wheat pastry flour
- 3/4 tsp. baking powder
- 1 and 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/2 cup + 1 tbs. cold water
- 1/3 cup + 4 tbs. olive oil
- 1 egg, beaten (to brush onto pastries before cooking)
- 1.5 lbs organic ground sirloin
- 1 cup cilantro, finely chopped
- 1/2 white onion, finely chopped
- 1/2-1 tsp. dried chipotle powder (depending on spice preference)
- juice of 1/2 lime
- 2 yellow peaches
- 1/2 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
- 1 lb. tomatillos
- 1/4 white onion
- 1/4 cup cilantro
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 450˚F.
- In a food processor, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Alternate adding cold water and olive oil slowly, pulsing the food processor until a solid ball of dough is formed.
- Chill dough just until firm and ready to use, about 30 minutes-1 hour.
- While dough is chilling, brown the beef in a pan over low-medium heat. Break up the meat with a spoon until it's crumbly and browned on all sides.
- Add the chopped onion and cover until the onions are translucent.
- Add the lime, cilantro, and chipotle powder and stir to combine.
- Remove from heat.
- Separate chilled dough into 12 equal balls. Roll out each ball of dough into a thin, flat circle about 4.5 inches in diameter. Fill each circle with 2-4 tablespoons of filling. Fold dough over the filling to create a half moon. Pinch the edges with a fork, or fold over the dough from the corner to create a "twisted" edge.
- Arrange on a baking sheet and brush with egg wash. Bake for about 10-15 minutes, or until golden.
- Quarter both peaches and remove the pits.
- Place peach slices onto a hot grill or grill pan, and cook until soft and the skins are easily peeled off. Remove from heat. Once cool enough to touch, remove the skins.
- Remove the tomatillos from their husks and rinse, and then cut each into quarters.
- Sauté the tomatillos until they become very soft and form a "jam." Let cool.
- In a food processor, combine grilled peaches, tomatillos, and remaining ingredients (except salt and pepper). Pulse until the salsa is at your desired consistency.
- For smaller, snack-sized empanadas, create smaller balls of dough and use less filling per each.
- For a spicier salsa, leave the ribs of the jalapeño pepper intact.
This is one of my favorite recipes to date for a few reasons. First of all, it’s really good. Like, SERIOUSLY good. Second of all, it WON me a recipe contest on one of my favorite Instagrams/blogs, Spoonful of Fit! As a result, I got hundreds of new followers on my dinky little Instagram, which now has almost 500 followers. That may not seem like a lot to someone who’s “Internet famous,” but to a random girl taking pictures of her lunch on her iPhone hoping to get recognized, that’s a sizeable step in the right direction!
When I made these, I was looking for a way to jazz up my meal prep for the week and do something special by entering the recipe contest, but I tried to keep it as simple as possible.
Turkey Sausage and Quinoa Stuffed Peppers with an Avocado “Cream” (Makes 6-8 servings)
- 1 cup plain, uncooked quinoa
- 2 cups vegetable stock (no salt added)
- 1 tsp olive or coconut oil
- 5 cloves minced garlic
- 5 links lean turkey sausage
- 2 cups spinach
- 3-4 medium-large bell peppers
- 1 avocado
- 1 container plain, fat free Greek Yogurt
- Garlic powder
Bring quinoa and veggie stock to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce to simmer and add 2 cloves of minced garlic when the broth is about halfway absorbed. Once the liquid is mostly absorbed, reduce heat all the way. In a separate pan, cook the turkey sausage (just the meat, no skins) on medium heat with 3 cloves minced garlic in a teeny bit of olive or coconut oil to keep the garlic from burning. Season with whatever you like, I used black pepper, a pinch of thyme, and Trader Joe’s South African Smoke Seasoning. Once the sausage is mostly cooked through, add the spinach until it wilts. Drain the fat and liquid, and add the sausage mixture to the quinoa. Stir, and let sit for a few minutes.
Cut each pepper in half lengthwise and remove the seeds/stem/ribs. Fill each half with the mixture and bake at 375˚ for about 25-30 minutes.
To make the avocado cream, mash the avocado and yogurt and add garlic powder to taste.
TIP: You can make this recipe Paleo and barely notice the difference!
How? Replace the quinoa with 2 cups riced cauliflower (raw, do not add extra liquid). Add extra seasoning if you’d like to make up for the flavor from not having veggie stock, and/or use a pre-seasoned sausage (I used a tomato basil variety for this version) for more flavor. Cut out the yogurt from the avocado cream and just use mashed avo and garlic powder! And if you’re vegan, replace the sausage with your favorite meat substitute, seasoned tofu, or some roasted veggies, and use almond milk or soy yogurt!
You should definitely go make this recipe as soon as you can. And if you don’t want to take my word for it, ask the people on Instagram who have already tried it and loved it 😉