Category Archives: meal planning

Squash Season

One thing I love about fall is the pretty little gourds that fill the farmer’s markets on Saturday mornings. About as diverse as the people who shop for them, I’ve always had an affinity for collecting the weird-looking ones each season. The gourds, not the weird people. Not that there’s anything wrong with weird people. I don’t think you should make it your mission to collect them though.

It wasn’t until a few years ago that I actually started cooking with these gourds. Growing up I was familiar with seeing things like summer squash and zucchini in dishes, but I never knew other types of squash could be so tasty.

Since I’m all about doing things fall even though it’s still 96 degrees outside this year, I decided to roast up a spaghetti squash the other night for dinner. I know what you’re thinking, no way is that going to take the place of the traditional pasta I know and love. And you would be right. The flavor is sweeter, the texture a little more, dare I say it, moist, and it’s a vegetable for goodness sake.

But isn’t it kind of cool that the weird-looking gourd you usually use to decorate your table each fall turns into these lookalike spaghetti noodles once it’s cooked? And that you can go for seconds or thirds without any guilt?

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Spaghetti Squash Spaghetti

  • 1 large spaghetti squash
  • 2 TBL olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1-2 shallots, sliced
  • 1 C fresh tomato puree or paste
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3-4 white mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 C fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp red wine vinegar

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Slice squash in half and scoop out and discard seeds. Drizzle olive oil on the flesh sides of the squash and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place flesh-side down on a foil-lined roasting pan. Roast for 30-40 minutes or until top of squash is soft to the touch.

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In a dutch oven, heat remaining olive oil over medium heat. Saute shallots until clear. Add garlic, mushrooms and chopped tomatoes. Add tomato paste and a little water if needed. Season with red wine vinegar, oregano, salt and pepper. Let simmer until sauce thickens.

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Scrape flesh of squash into bowl. Add sauce just before serving.

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It’s vegetarian, whole30 approved, healthy, and it tastes good. Can’t beat those odds.

 

Grandma’s Rhubarb Cake

It’s back!

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Happy HalloLaborDay! 🎃

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Candy Corn is back in your local grocery store folks! You only have 60 days to enjoy this treat so don’t delay. I don’t know about you but my Labor Day was filled with super sweet waxy triangles of awesomeness. So what if it felt like I was cheating on the holiday. We’re just friends I promise.

I figure if Candy Corn is back in stores then fall is just around the corner. And since it’s still 96 degrees outside and probably will be for the foreseeable future, I’ve thrown out all rules about when you should or shouldn’t make traditionally seasonal foods.

Truth is, I found rhubarb at the store last week and I couldn’t not buy it. Yes, I realize this stuff grows in ditches back in the Midwest but I can’t find it for the life of me down here so I have to take advantage when I get the chance. I was a little skeptical, having paid way too much for a pound of it, sure that it would taste like crap and not live up to my grandmother’s recipe, but man was I wrong.

So in honor of fall, candy corn and everything football, I figured this recipe deserved another share. Do me a favor and find some locally grown rhubarb though. I’d hate for you to make a scene in the grocery store like I did when you finally spot some of the fresh stuff.

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Grandma’s Rhubarb Cake

  • 2 C sugar
  • 1/2 C shortening
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/2 C flour (plus 1 tsp more for pan)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 C buttermilk mixed with 1 tsp baking soda
  • 4 C rhubarb, chopped

Cinnamon Sugar Topping

  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a stand mixer, cream sugar and shortening together. Add egg and vanilla.

In a small bowl, whisk flour and salt.

Gradually add flour and buttermilk, alternating once each is combined.

With a spatula, fold in chopped rhubarb.

In a prep bowl, whisk cinnamon and sugar. Pour over cake and tap until covered. Remove excess if necessary.

Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a knife comes out clean in the center. Let cool.

Serve with coffee in the morning, a mid-day snack or dessert in the evening.

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Honey Cornbread Muffins

I learned an important lesson this week while making cornbread muffins.

Don’t over-think things. Simple is best.

Who says the best lessons aren’t learned while baking anyways?

A few weeks ago I made a cornbread crumb cake that was delicious albeit a little time-consuming.

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And yesterday I cooked up a batch of vegetarian chili and was looking for a quick corn muffin recipe to go along with it. Let’s avoid getting into the details as to why I felt the need to make chili when it was 96 degrees outside and focus on the fact I discovered a quick and simple corn muffin recipe in the process, shall we?

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I scanned several recipes, knowing I didn’t want to mess with anything vegan, jalapeno or healthy on this particular day when I settled on this one. Wouldn’t you know it turned out way better than my other more complicated attempts and it took half the time.

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Honey Cornbread Muffins

-adapted from The Neely’s via Food Network. Makes 6 muffins. Double recipe for 12. 

  • 1/2 C cornmeal
  • 1/2 C flour
  • 1/2 TBL baking powder
  • 1/4 C sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 C milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 stick butter, melted
  • 2 TBL cup honey

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.

In a liquid measure, whisk melted butter, egg, milk and honey.

Add wet ingredients into wet and stir until just combined.

Fill silicone baking cups or paper-lined tins 3/4 of the way full.

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Serve with butter or extra honey.

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Enjoy!

 

Summer Corn Chowder

Happy Back to School Day to all the parents out there! All too often we celebrate the fresh starts, new classes and that whole importance of educating our youth when in reality we should be celebrating the fact you just survived three months of 24-hour parenting without the assistance of teachers. So let’s take a moment to pat you on the back for making it through. And another one for the kind teachers who are going to take over from here for you.

I remember my first day of sixth grade like it was yesterday. We had just moved to a new neighborhood and not only was I starting a new school, but I was starting public school for the first time after attending a Montessori school since I was two. I was nervous, but I had a great set of friends and a brand new coordinating Limited Too top and shorts to wear with my Birkenstocks so there wasn’t much that could cramp my style. We snapped first day photos that wouldn’t be developed for weeks, took turns guessing who would be in our homeroom and waited for the bus to show up.

The bus never came.

My first day of sixth grade didn’t happen because some high-schooler slashed the bus tires of nearly the entire fleet. So we settled for an extra day of summer break and a few quotes in the local newspaper. Perks of having a former reporter in the family I suppose.

This recipe has little to do with Back to School time but it would be a good one to add to your rotation as a quick go-to dinner. It doesn’t require the time a lot of soups take and it’s light enough to enjoy even in the summer heat. I used shrimp in this version, but you could add crab or remove the seafood altogether if you have a picky eater in the family.

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Shrimp and Corn Chowder
-adapted from Cooking Light

  • 4 slices Canadian bacon, diced
  • 4 green onions, sliced
  • 1 TBL thyme
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 C flour
  • 2 1/2 C low-fat milk
  • 1 1/4 C unsalted chicken stock
  • 1 tsp Penzeys Forward seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp ground red pepper
  • 1/2 pound uncooked fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 (12-ounce) package frozen sweet corn

In a small prep bowl, set aside two tablespoons of chopped green onions.

In a dutch oven, cook Canadian bacon over medium heat until crispy. Remove and place on paper towel to absorb extra grease.

Add green onions, thyme and garlic to pan and saute for 2-3 minutes. Spoon flour over onion mixture.

Add milk and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for another 5 minutes or so.

Add seasoning, salt and red and black pepper.

Add 3/4 of the corn and half Canadian bacon pieces to the broth. Cook until corn is heated through. Using an immersion blender, cream corn and bacon to thicken chowder. Once pureed, add remaining corn and shrimp. Cook for another 5 minutes or until shrimp is done.

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Garnish chowder with remaining bacon and green onions.

summer_corn_chowder_three

 

Enjoy!

Panzanella Salad

Considering I’m a true adult now and all, I figured I should start expanding my salad repertoire and get a little fancier.

Just kidding. I just had some rock hard bread that I didn’t want to go to waste.

Truth is I love carbs as much as the next runner gearing up for a big race, but when it comes to my salad, I’d rather have a side of bread to accompany it than to have it mixed in. But this. This crunchy, grainy goodness is worth a try.

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Panzanella Salad

  • 1 C mixed greens (arugula, spinach, etc)
  • 2 C cubed day old bread (I used half of a loaf of Trader Joe’s multigrain ciabatta)
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 1/4 C cucumber, sliced
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 TBL feta cheese
  • 2 TBL thinly sliced red onion

Vinaigrette

  • 1 tsp spicy brown mustard
  • 2 TBL champagne or cider vinegar
  • 1 clove fresh garlic, minced (can sub garlic powder)
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

In a large bowl, combine mixed greens, tomato, cucumber, red onion, basil and feta. Set aside.

In a skillet or dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add bread cubes and toss until crispy and brown.

Whisk vinaigrette in a small bowl.

Toss all ingredients together and let sit for 10 minutes or so to let flavors combine.

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A great lunch for a warm summer day. Enjoy!

Currently I’m…

In the middle of a full-on middle school crush with The Mindy Project. It’s been about 4 years since I had sophisticated TV equipment so I’m on technology overload as of late. How did I go so long without this show in my life and why can’t all OB/GYNs be that funny?

Finding it hard to concentrate on much else besides my trip to Chicago this weekend. Don’t get me wrong Florida is sunshine and blazing hot temps and all but I can’t wait to get back to the city and catch up with my friends and celebrate their offspring. After this past winter, I feel like I’m entitled to enjoying above freezing temps with the people I suffered alongside.

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Wondering how my dog is more proficient in yoga poses than I am. Here I am practicing three times a week in a studio and all I have to do is pull out the vacuum for him to do a perfect downward dog. I’m going to see if my teacher will let us try out the “twisted swissy” next class.

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Really starting to feel my age. According to this Health survey, my true age is only 25.6, but if you ask my joints, I’m feeling a wee bit older than that. It seems fitting though, to start a glucosamine supplement just a week before your 30th birthday, doesn’t it?

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Really wishing I wouldn’t have thrown away the rest of Matt’s birthday cake last week.

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Willing to grill just about anything if it means avoiding using my stove these days. Last night we did an entire meal on the grill and I’m not upset about it. Not one bit. We even swapped out a salad for grilled romaine just to keep it simple. Just kidding, we did it because I was too lazy to chop up the other ingredients.

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Grilled Shrimp with Chimichurri

  • 1 C parsley, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1 C cilantro, rinsed and patted dry
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp ground red pepper
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/4-1/2 C olive oil (I kept mine more acidic than oily)
  • 4 TBL fresh lemon juice
  • 2 TBL red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1-2 TBL water (if needed)

Place all ingredients except oil and water into a food processor. Add oil slowly until it reaches pesto consistency. Since we were originally planning on using this as a steak marinade, I made it lighter on the oil. Good news, it’s great on shrimp too.

Peel and devein uncooked shrimp and place on a metal skewer. Heat grill to medium. Baste chimichurri on shrimp towards the end of the cooking process.

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We got two uses out of this batch. The first night for shrimp and whitefish tostadas and the second for skirt steak and shrimp the next night.

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And in celebrating for Matt’s trip to Mexico we washed them down with a two-ingredient margarita I hacked up just before we sat down. Still on that lazy cooking kick if you can’t tell.

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Two-ingredient Margarita

  • La Croix Lime
  • Tequila
  • Fresh Lime juice
  • Honey or agave
  • Salt

OK so I lied about the two ingredient part but in reality you can just make this with tequila and La Croix. The fresh lime juice and sweetener just helps it taste a little more traditional. The key here is using a good tequila. The stuff so good it doesn’t even taste like tequila, tequila.

I get bored talking to myself all the time. What are you currently into?

Have a great day!

Tabbouleh Salad and Sangria

Before I share with you a super easy salad recipe that goes great with blazing hot weather, I want to give you a quick rundown of some observations from the weekend.

Bridge runs are for the birds

On Saturday mornings, we like to take Finn down to a park along Sarasota Bay where he can play with other pups, swim and run around for the 15 minutes it takes him to be completely exhausted and ready for a nap.

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🎶down by the bay🎶

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If I’m not rolling solo, Matt and I like to take turns going up to the Ringling Bridge and running it for a quick and ridiculously exhausting workout. I thought the humidity and heat would be the toughest part about running in Florida but bridge running in hot and humid temps might just be my worst nightmare. So if you’re looking for a quick workout, go find a long bridge and run across it.

Not all movie theaters have two entrances.

Matt and I went to see Tammy this weekend and after arriving at the show during the previews we were faced with the dilemma of choosing which side of the theater to enter and find a seat. We hesitated briefly and both decided left would be the way to go. As Matt so eloquently pointed out, “All of America goes right.” So we opened the door to the left and walked into a utility closet. We laughed. Harder than we did for most of the movie so go ahead and save your $10 and wait until it comes out on DVD.

Ice Deli should exist in every city that I live. 

Need I say more?

Summer is meant for cold salads.

After making and eating Matt’s birthday cake all week, I’ve been sort of lazy on the cooking front. Loads of butter will do that to a girl. And whenever I’m feeling lazy as a cook I make a big batch of quinoa or other grain salad and eat it for every meal until it’s gone. You should, too.

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Tabbouleh (bulgur) salad

  •  3 Cups cooked bulgur (I use the 10-minute bulgur from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/3 C tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/3 C cucumber, chopped
  • 1/4 C red onion, chopped
  • 1/4 C celery, chopped
  • 2-3 TBL crumbled feta
  • Cilantro, chopped
  • Parsley, chopped
  • fresh lemon juice
  • salt/pepper

Cook bulgur according to package directions. Let cool.

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Chop vegetables. Add to bulgur once it is cool. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.

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Eat it straight from the bowl, put it on a bed of spinach with a little balsamic vinegar or serve it with a piece of fish for a complete meal.

And while we’re on the lazy front, I was messing around this evening and tested out a two ingredient sangria recipe for you. It was pretty tough. It took me about 30 seconds to pull a bottle of merlot out of the fridge and consider what would happen if I poured some San Pellegrino Limonata into it. By golly it worked. Chop up some apples and you have an individual serving of a decent sangria on your hands.

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Two recipes so easy you’ll have no excuse to cook this week.