HOLIDAY STUFFED BUTTERNUT SQUASH

I’ve been cooking up all kinds of Seasonal veggie entrees for my family for the past two weeks, and their favorite is this stuffed butternut squash, which I think makes a perfect vegan Holiday Meal. If you’re not veggie and having turkey, it also makes for a lovely post-turkey (when you’re sick of the sight of it,) supper.

You can use any kind of squash, but Butternut is my favorite for this one.

Serves 2

1 medium Butternut squash, halved & de-seeded

1/2 cup quinoa

1/2 cup fresh cranberries

2tbsp grapeseed, canola or olive oil

1 small onion, minced

2 shallots, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed (or 1/2 tsp dried thyme)

1 cup brown mushrooms, roughly chopped

1/2 cup walnut peices

Sea Salt and Pepper to taste

1tsp agave nectar

1/2 cup of chopped fresh flat-leaved parsley

 

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F

Rub the cut side of the squash with a little oil to prevent sticking and place them flesh-side down on a greased baking sheet. I used recycled aluminum foil to avoid too much mess. Place them in the oven for about 30 -40 minutes or until they are tender when a knife is inserted. I would check them after 30 minutes because they might be ready – in my experience, over-baking them isn’t great as the whole thing can collapse and isn’t as pretty when serving.

Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile cook the quinoa according to the package directions. If you don’t have package directions (you can buy your quinoa in the bulk bins,) you’ll need to boil 1 1/4 cups of water, add the quinoa, and simmer on a low heat with the lid on, until all the water is absorbed.

For the last 5 minutes of cooking time for the quinoa (usually takes about 15 minutes total) – so after 10 minutes, add the cranberries. When cooked, fluff up with fork and set aside to cool.

In a large skillet, heat the oil and fry the onions, shallots, and garlic on a medium heat until they are just about to brown – keep stirring all the time, as you don’t want the garlic to burn. Add the mushrooms and fry for a further 3-4 minutes. Stir in the walnuts thyme, agave, salt and pepper and fry for a further minute or so. Remove from the heat.

Scoop most of the flesh out of the butternut nut squash, making sure the skins stay well intact and place it in a large bowl.

Add the quinoa & cranberries and gently fold into the soft squash. The key here is not to mix, but to gently combine, because you don’t want the whole thing turning into a mush.

Add the onion/mushroom mixture and again, gently combine. Finally mix in the parsley.

Spoon the mixture into the shells and place them on a baking sheet, and cover each one with a piece of foil.  Place in a medium oven (350 degrees) for 20 – 30 minutes. You can easily prepare this whole thing the day before and chill overnight. If so, you’ll need 30 minutes to heat it up, however, if you are cooking it while the ingredients are still warm, you’ll probably only need to bake for 20 minutes.

A nice finishing touch would be to sprinkle the top with Parmesan cheese (for non-vegans), and whole wheat bread crumbs for vegans. If you decide to go for topping, remove the foil for the last 10 minutes of baking.

 

 

 

 

SUPER CRANBERRY & ORANGE GRANOLA

I’m always playing with different granola recipes to find one that’s yummy, crunch and really healthy. I recently went to the bulk bins in a Wholefoods store and “sampled” a bunch of their “healthy” granolas – in my opinion, they were at best, absolutely tasteless.

Since homemade granola is really easy to make, it just makes sense to whip out a baking sheet once a week and get a batch in the oven.

I’m a great fan of a company called Navitas Naturals, as they carry every kind of fair-trade Super Food imaginable, and if you’re into giving these potent/health-giving foods a whirl, granola is a great place to start. You can pack every batch with tiny seeds, which contain more nutrients than almost anything you can find at a grocery store.

I also tried a superfood powder called Lucuma (Navitas Naturals,) which comes from a Peruvian fruit and is an excellent low-glycemic sweetener, which is full of vitamins and minerals – perfect for baking too. If possible I like to avoid eating sugar, particularly at breakfast, so this is a great alternative. If you can’t get hold of it right away, for now just substitute with brown sugar.

I also wanted to use quinoa because it’s a grain which is really high in protein. I came across a bag of sprouted quinoa at my local health food store, which is fantastic because you don’t need to cook it first. If you can’t find this rather more unusual ingredient, substitute with another grain, such as millet, or just add another cup of old-fashioned oats.

If you order your seeds and lucuma from Navitas Naturals, a small bag will keep you going for a while, and you can also add them to smoothies.

2 cups old fashioned oats

1 cup sprouted quinoa (millet seed or more oats if you can’t get the sprouted quinoa)

1/2 cup of hemp seeds

1/2 cup of chia seeds

4 tbsp of lucuma powder (or two tbsp of brown sugar)

1tbsp ground cinnamon

2tsp vanilla essence

1/2 tsp kosher salt

Zest of 1 medium orange

1/2 cup raw virgin coconut oil (heated to liquify) – you can substitute with a vegetable oil such as canola if needs be.

1/2 cup dried cranberries

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F.

Simply mix all the ingredients except the cranberries. together in a large bowl, making sure that the oats are well coated with all the ingredients.

Spread evenly on a baking sheet and pop in the oven for about ten minutes or until slightly browned on top. Use a large spatula to turn over the granola and pop back in the oven for a further ten minutes or until nicely browned. Add the cranberries.

 

I love to serve it with Almond Milk or plain yogurt. Greek yogurt is a little too thick for this granola, but a more runny plain yogurt is fab.

 

 

TEA BREAD

As many of you know I’m a tea addict and aside from drinking it, I love to cook with it, particularly in cakes in cookies. This is a wonderfully rich tea cake, that you and your family will go nuts over. I made a couple of loaves because it not only freezes well, but is also delicious if you toast it when it’s a little stale – toasted and slathered with lashings of butter!

It’s also the perfect time of year to get stock up your freezer with Holiday goodies for when your guests arrive.

Mum and I made a couple of loaves when she was visiting this week and everyone who came over to visit was offered a slice and wound up having three. Mom left back for England  last night and to cheer myself up, I’m about to toast a slice and eat it with a cup of my favorite chai tea from Lupicia Teas.

 Tea Bread

Pre-heat oven to 340 F.

2 black tea bags

1/3/4 cups boiling water

4 cups mixed fruit (raisins, sultanas, cranberries, un-sulphured apricots- chopped)

2 1/4  cups whole wheat flour

1tsp baking powder

A pinch salt

1 1/2 cups soft brown sugar

1tbsp melted butter

1 egg lightly beaten

Place dried fruit in a large bowl.

Steep the tea bags in 1 3/4 cups of boiling water for ten minutes. Pour the steeped tea over the fruit and leave to soak for one hour.

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the fruit/tea mixture and combine well. Mix in the egg and butter, making sure everything is really well combined.

Grease and line a loaf tin and spoon in the batter, smoothing it down.

Place in the oven and bake for 1 and 1/4 hours. Test to see if a toothpick comes out clean – if not, put back for another 5-10 minutes.

Allow to cool on a wire rack and serve when cool.

It will keep for up to 2 weeks in a tin or airtight container. After about a week, I like to slice and toast it, slathered in butter