My dear friends, it has been way too long. It’s late, and I’m sitting here with a cup of tea (I’m not going to lie—I just finished a gigantic glass of wine). I feel so glad to be back. I’ve been consumed with a few projects, which I promise to share with you very, very soon (as a hint, one starts with “b” and ends with “k”!!), but in the meantime, did you get the memo that Thanksgiving is next week? How did this fall flash by so fast? My little baby is already almost eleven months old! My oldest is flying through kindergarten! And there are only FIVE MORE MONDAYS UNTIL CHRISTMAS!!!
It’s been a whirlwind of a fall. We’ve finally caught our breath, and now the holidays are scratching at our back door. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited to let them in, but I’m also looking for every possible way to simplify things this year. That means designing streamlined menus filled with do-ahead dishes for all of our holiday gatherings. While we’re lucky to be spending Thanksgiving with James’s family this year, where his mom makes a mean spread, this salad is surely going to make its sweet little appearance more than once this season. Caramelized butternut squash gets tossed with maple-roasted pecans, brown rice (or any chewy grain you like, such as farro, pearled barley or wheat berries), crisp apples, creamy goat cheese and a roasted garlic dressing. It’s savory, sweet, full of texture and flavor, and, best of all, it can happily sit at room temperature for several hours, freeing you up to fret over the gravy and mashed potatoes. The butternut squash, pecans, dressing and rice can even be made the day before. Serve the salad alongside your turkey or roast, bring it to a potluck, or save it for a nutritious post-holiday lunch. It’s as crowd-pleasing and adaptable as Tom Hanks circa 1994.
I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and I promise to be back soon with more From Scratch Fast recipes and tips. This year, I’m grateful for so very much, including you.
For more holiday inspiration, find me on Twitter and Instagram at @SizemoreNicki !
- 1 2-pound butternut squash, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice (4 cups diced)
- 6 cloves garlic, unpeeled
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh sage, divided
- 1 ½ teaspoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 ½ tablespoons plus ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
- Salt & freshly ground black pepper
- ¾ cup pecans
- 1 ½ tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 3-4 cups cooked brown rice (from 1 cup uncooked)
- 1 crisp apple (such as Fuji, Jonagold or Pink Lady), cored and cut into ½-inch dice
- 2-4-ounces goat cheese, crumbled
- Fried sage leaves (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 400˚F.
- Line a large baking sheet with foil and add the diced butternut squash, garlic cloves, 1 ½ teaspoons sage, balsamic vinegar and 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Mix everything around on the pan to coat. Roast, stirring occasionally, until the squash is tender and caramelized around the edges, about 30 minutes. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, if needed.
- While the squash bakes, make the maple pecans. Line a small baking sheet with aluminum foil and add the pecans and 1 tablespoon of the maple syrup. Season with salt. Toss the pecans to evenly coat in the syrup, then spread in an even layer. Pop the pan in the oven (this can be alongside the squash) for about 5 minutes, or until the nuts are a shade darker in color and aromatic. Immediately transfer the nuts to a plate. Cool completely, then coarsely chop.
- To make the dressing, squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of their skins into a small bowl, and mash them into a paste with a pinch of salt. Add the apple cider vinegar, the remaining ½ tablespoon maple syrup and the remaining ½ teaspoon sage. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk in the remaining ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil.
- In a large bowl, combine the butternut squash, cooked rice, apple and chopped pecans. Add the dressing and toss to coat. Taste and season with salt and pepper, as needed. Gently fold in the goat cheese. If you’re feeling fancy, garnish with fried sage leaves just before serving.
From Scratch Fast Families: The Connaughtons
Brady and Matt Connaughton live in Shark River Hills, NJ, with their three very active boys. Even though their schedules are packed, Brady cooks most nights for the family, often sourcing from her garden or farm share (rock star!). You’re going to love her Lemon Ginger Chicken recipe, which, parden my French, is so freaking delicious! It might look simple, but the flavor is phenomenal from the lemon, ginger and garlic, and the meat is supremely moist. Brady serves it with a stellar Parmesan Quinoa—this is the recipe to convince picky kids, and adults, to eat their quinoa. This is the perfect back-to-school meal for active families. Thank you to Brady and her family for joining us this week!
Corn. Corn. Corn. Corn. It’s August, and that means CORN! As I’ve mentioned in years past, I’m an Illinois native, and corn runs in my blood. I love the stuff, especially since I only have a month or two to gorge on it each year. Corn season began a couple of weeks ago in the Hudson Valley, and we’ve been eating it every weekend slathered with butter and sea salt, straight off the cob. I’ve even trained Ella in the art (read: “chore”) of shucking corn, which she happily (read: “naively”) finds entertaining. While I love steamed and boiled corn, grilled corn is especially appealing right now, since it requires no stovetop action and imparts a fabulous smoky flavor.
This week’s post features the Rhodes family from St. Augustine, FL. Tanya and her husband Jake both work full time at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind and have two small boys. Even though they often have long days (did I mention that Tanya is also in grad school?!), they still manage to get home-cooked meals on the table most nights of the week. One of Tanya’s favorite secret weapons is her slow cooker, which she uses year round—dinner cooks while they’re at work, without heating up their Florida kitchen. Brilliant! Her pulled pork is so simple, but soooooo flavorful. It can be eaten on its own over rice, in tacos or tostados, or as killer barbeque pulled pork sandwiches. You’ve got to try these! Top the sandwiches with a quick homemade slaw, throw some corn on the side, and you’re on your way to summertime nirvana.
From Scratch Fast Families: The Holmbos
I’m so excited to introduce you to Laura Lee Holmbo, a single working mother of four kids who somehow still manages gets a from-scratch dinner on the table most nights of the week. You’re going to LOVE her super simple but pitch perfect fish tacos! They’re ideal this time of year, when the last thing you want to do is turn on the oven. Laura serves the tacos with a fabulous crunchy slaw and creamy avocado slices. This meal is an awesome way to get your kiddos to eat their fish and vegetables—my five-year-old devoured everything, which (trust me) says a lot!
Ok, I’m going to jump right into this post by claiming that this is the ultimate summertime sandwich. Yes, I know that burgers are quintessential, and a tomato and basil sandwich is pretty paramount, but to truly manifest crashing waves, sandy toes and sunburned cheeks, this crispy fish sandwich is where it’s at. Piled with pan-fried filets of flounder (or lemon sole), as well as juicy tomato slices, slivers of avocado, lettuce and a generous smear of herbed mayonnaise, it has the power to transport you to a sunny beach, even if you’re as landlocked as Nebraska.
From Scratch Fast Families: The Glasscoes
I’m so THRILLED (!) to be introducing a new series called From Scratch Fast Families, where every couple of weeks I’ll be featuring a family that’s dedicated to making from-scratch meals, even in the face of hectic schedules. Putting fresh, wholesome food on the table is one of the best things we can do for the health of our bodies and of our families, but, as we all know, it ain’t always easy. I’ve found that I’m constantly picking my friends’ brains for weeknight meal ideas. How do they manage the (often dizzying) dinnertime tango? What are their routines, strategies and struggles? My hope is that by sharing other family’s schedules, tips and challenges, as well as one or two of their favorite weekday recipes, we can get inspired, grow our recipe repertoires, and/or at least feel as though we’re not alone in what can often feel like a struggle to feed our families well. It’s a way to learn from (and laugh with!) others, without judgment. I hope you’ll enjoy!
I’m delighted to introduce the first family—the Glasscoes. Jessica and her husband Dustin live in Charlotte, VT with their two daughters (they also happen to be some of my dearest friends). They have very full lives, but they’re committed to cooking fresh food for their family. Thank you Jess and Dustin for helping me to kick this off!
Every week I make a big batch of quinoa, which I use for various meals throughout the week. I heat it up for breakfast (as a porridge with nut milk, coconut oil or ghee, maple syrup or stevia, toasted nuts and fruit) and it’s great to have on hand for quick lunches. I add it to salads to give bulk, use it as a bed for quickly sautéed fish, meat or vegetables, and sauté it into a “fried rice” concoction with whatever scraps are chilling in the crisper. While I’ve always been in the quinoa camp (it’s full of fun, happy people singing camp songs… j/k), James has recently become enamored. On the weekends he started usurping my lunches, sneaking bites when I wasn’t looking and commenting on how good they were, until I finally gave in and started making him lunch as well (pretty smart tactic on his part, eh?). No two quinoa bowls are alike, but they often involve sautéed or roasted vegetables, a quick dressing or sauce and a fried egg on top. This version was an instant hit last week for dinner.
About three years ago I received a text from a friend of a friend asking if I’d be interested in helping her butcher a lamb. I hardly knew Kelley at that time, but I think my text back read something like; “Hell yea!” Aside from some minor butchering in cooking school, my experience was limited to deboning pork shoulders or legs of lamb, and I was interesting in learning more. Plus, anybody who was willing to tackle a whole animal was definitely worth meeting. I wanted to hang out with this chick.
We’ve gone straight from winter to summer, with temperatures climbing high into the eighties last week. Hey, I’m not complaining, although I’m not quite ready to don shorts and skirts in public (lest my legs get mistaken for lightsabers). Our grill is now back in action, after a scrub-down by James—apparently it made quite a cozy mouse den this winter (eek! I have an inexplicable fear of mice). In any case, it’s been hot out, and we’ve finally been able to break in our back deck dining set, which is where we eat dinner practically every evening in the warm months. One of our favorite springtime meals is Chicken Paillard with Fingerling Potato & Dandelion Greens Salad. Chicken breasts get pounded thin and are then quickly sautéed and piled high with a vibrant spring salad. Since the kitchen has been so hot (particularly since I refuse to switch out my jeans for more practical wear), I decided to take the meal outdoors. Instead of searing the chicken breasts on the stove, I tossed them on the grill. I also changed up the salad to include thinly shaved fennel, baby arugula, golden raisins, black olives, toasted almonds and feta cheese. The sweetness of the raisins and the crunch of the almonds, paired with the saltiness of the black olives and freshness of the fennel, make a perfect counterpoint to the smoky grilled chicken. It’s springtime (which feels like summertime) perfection.