Parmesan Butternut Squash

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Sometimes simple ingredients come together to make the perfect dish. With only four ingredients, this side dish is easy to make yet so tasty. I don’t normally add much salt to my vegetables, but the saltiness of the cheese really put this squash on another level. It tastes as sweet as always but with perfect contrast. I could eat this for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

The only trick to know here is that the squash can’t be crowded in the pan, or it won’t brown; it will steam. It may seem like an unnecessary effort to use two pans, but it caramelizes the squash so it tastes like something you’d get at a restaurant.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large butternut squash
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • sea salt
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese

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DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with foil and coat with olive oil spray.
  2. Use a knife or a vegetable peeler to remove the skin from the butternut squash. Cut it in half and remove the seeds; then cut into small pieces.
  3. Put half of the squash on each baking sheet, being sure to leave lots of room for the pieces to brown. Drizzle a half-teaspoon of oil over each baking sheet, and use your hands to mix the oil into the squash. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt.
  4. Bake for 25 minutes at 425 degrees. Remove the pans from the oven, stir the squash, and return the pans to the oven, but switch the pans—the pan that was on the top rack should now be on the bottom rack. 2014-10-31 18.57.10
  5. Turn the oven down to 400 degrees and bake the squash for 15 minutes more.
  6. Remove squash from the oven and sprinkle each pan with parmesan cheese. Stir and serve.

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Serves 4. Active time 15 minutes; total time 55 minutes. Adapted from http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2013/11/roasted-butternut-squash-with-pine-nuts-and-parmesan/

Sesame Bok Choy Salad

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This is my new favorite salad. Baby bok choy is a delightful vegetable: crunchy and slightly bitter, with both greens and a cabbage-like stalk. I’ve been using it instead of onion in some recipes, but now that I know how good it is raw, I’ll be experimenting with other flavors of dressing.

Baby bok choy is more perishable than cabbage, so I don’t recommend dressing this salad and leaving it in the fridge overnight. It will keep for a few hours, though, so it’s a good option for a party appetizer or potluck; just make a double batch. Add the dressing right before you serve it, and it will stay crunchy for several hours. If you want to save some for the next day, don’t add any dressing until then.

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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 tsp honey, put in the microwave for 5 seconds
  • 1 1/2 tsp low-sodium soy sauce (gluten-free if desired)
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp grated ginger
  • large pinch of onion powder
  • 5 heads baby bok choy, rinsed, dried, and thinly sliced
  • 1 large carrot, shredded
  • 2 tbsp toasted sliced almonds
  • 1 tbsp cilantro leaves

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a small bowl, stir the honey, soy sauce, vinegar, oils, ginger, and onion powder until it forms a uniform dressing. Microwave for a few seconds if the honey isn’t combining easily. IMG_5506
  2. Pour the vinaigrette over the bok choy and carrot. Add the cilantro and toss well to coat the salad in dressing. Top with the toasted almonds and serve.

Serves 4 as an appetizer or 2 as a main course. Active and total time 15 minutes. Adapted from http://thecozyapron.com/cozy-cameo-pass-the-bok-choy-greens-and-my-skinny-jeans-please/

Simple Sauteed Chard

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This recipe is an easy way to get greens into your diet—and it’s delicious! Chard is my favorite green because it tastes buttery when cooked. I use the red or rainbow variety because the colors are pretty, but the white stems taste just as good.

Chard leaves are deep green with veins that thicken as they approach the stem. Before you start cooking, separate the stems and leaves, as the stems take longer to cook. The red stems smell like beets when they hit the pan and start to sizzle! I usually cover the pan once I add the leaves, and the steam helps them to wilt quickly.

Chard has enough flavor to be eaten plain, but I wanted to jazz it up to serve to guests. The lemon-infused olive oil did the trick; lemon zest would work, too. I served this with chicken and mashed potatoes, but it also works as a bed for fish or even as a side for eggs. If you have leftovers, stir them into pasta or soup.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb Swiss chard (a large bunch)
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp lemon olive oil (or 1 tsp oil and 1 tsp lemon zest)
  • 1/2 tsp rice vinegar
  • salt to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Separate the chard stems from leaves. Rinse everything and dry very well in a salad spinner. Cut the stems into 1-inch pieces, and cut the leaves into 1-inch strips. IMG_5393
  2. Heat the olive oil over medium in a large skillet. Add the chard stems and saute for 5 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally.
  3. Add the leaves and cover the pan. Cook for another 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the leaves wilt.
  4. Add the lemon oil, vinegar, and salt. Cook for another 2 minutes on low and serve.

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Serves 2 to 3. Active time 20 minutes; total time 25 minutes. Adapted from http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/sauteed-swiss-chard-recipe.html

Salad with Ginger Dressing & Kale Chips

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With its prohibition of citrus and strict limits on vinegar and oil, the low-acid diet does not make it easy to eat salad. Most of the salads I make use quinoa as a base instead of lettuce. To dress a green salad lightly and still enjoy it, you need to add something that keeps the palate interested.

Two textures made this salad a success: kale chips and ginger. The baked kale adds a salty, bitter crunch, while the grated ginger makes the dressing both thick and spicy. If you don’t feel like making kale chips, I suggest using toasted almonds as an alternative (but less interesting) crunchy topper.

Kale chips are easy to make. This was my first time trying it because in the past I’ve been too lazy to go through the effort of drying the kale. These leaves weren’t totally dry, so some of the chips stayed green instead of turning brown. I was happy to discover that the green chips were just as crunchy as the browned ones.

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INGREDIENTS

  • 4 to 5 cups packed kale leaves
  • olive oil spray
  • sea salt
  • 2 cups baby spinach/arugula mix
  • 1/2 cup chopped snow peas or snap peas
  • 1/2 cup chopped red pepper
  • handful of cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 tsp low-sodium soy sauce (gluten-free if desired)
  • 1/2 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger
  • pinch of onion powder

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the kale from the stems and tear it into bite-sized pieces. Wash and dry well in a salad spinner. Then dry the leaves completely on a towel.
  2. Arrange the kale in a single layer on 2 large baking sheets, and coat with olive oil spray. Sprinkle with sea salt to taste and cook for 10 to 14 minutes. Remove from the oven when some of the pieces are very brown, even if some of the other pieces are still green.
  3. While the kale is baking, add greens, peas, pepper, and cilantro to a large bowl.
  4. In a small bowl, mix the soy sauce, vinegar, oil, honey, ginger, and onion powder. Stir well. IMG_5355
  5. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and toss well to coat. Arrange the salad on a large plate.
  6. When the kale chips are done, sprinkle a few on top of the salad and serve.
  7. Store extra kale chips at room temperature.
Serves 1. Active time 15 minutes; total time 20 minutes.

Sushi Rice Balls

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My five-pound bag of sushi rice has been sitting unused since my foray into sushi making this summer. Sushi rolling is too much of a production for every day. Luckily the bag of rice caught my eye on an icy evening when I needed to make a party appetizer but had few groceries in the house.

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These rice balls are sticky, salty, and a bit spicy from the ginger. They’re also inexpensive and easy to make. You can try stuffing them with other ingredients—such as chopped shrimp or vegetables—if you want to make them fancier.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup sushi rice
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped baby spinach (measured after chopping)
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce (gluten free if desired)
  • 1 tbsp black sesame seeds
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1 tbsp warm water

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DIRECTIONS

  1. Place the rice in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse lightly with cool water. Shake out the extra water, and place the rice in a medium pot with a lid. Add the water and bring to a boil over high heat.
  2. When the water boils, stir and recover the rice. Lower heat to a simmer for 23 to 25 minutes, until the water is gone. If the pot bubbles too much and threatens to overflow, remove the lid for a few seconds and then recover.
  3. When rice is finished, stir in spinach until the pieces wilt. Add vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame seeds and stir.
  4. Sprinkle the surface of the rice with ginger and coriander. Drizzle with the warm water and stir well. Let the rice mixture cool for 10 minutes.  IMG_4938
  5. Put a piece of plastic wrap on a clean countertop, and fill a small bowl with cool water.
  6. Wet your fingers and roll a rice ball about 1 1/2 inches across. Place the ball on the plastic wrap. Wet your fingers again and repeat until you’ve rolled all of the rice.  IMG_4939
  7. Serve warm, or allow to cool before packing in an airtight container lined with plastic wrap. Store for a day at room temperature, or refrigerate and bring to room temperature before eating.
Makes about 16 balls. Adapted from http://www.marthastewart.com/313119/sesame-rice-balls