Mar 242013
 

Organic farm + cooking school + cabo + family = Marissa’s paradise.  Yep, you’re about to hear about what might have been my favorite day ever.  There were so many amazing parts of my vacation to Cabo last week–seeing whales from our balcony daily, amazing food (and drinks) with the family and boyfriend, absolutely perfect weather, but the highlight was definitely cooking school at Los Tamarindos.  It was lead by agriculturist turned organic farmer and chef and resulted in the most incredible farm to table meal:  chiles rellenos, chicken mole, vegetables roasted in “magic” oil, and herbed rice.  Take me back pleaseeeee.


Our day started with a brief tour of this 17 acre organic farm.  The chef explained to us the different methods they use for pest prevention and fertilization to keep the farm certified organic.  They grow just about every herb, peppers, tomatoes, mangos, and eggplants just to name a few. 


We were able to try many of these straight off the vine, including the sweetest tomatoes I have ever tasted, arugula flowers, and espazote, an herb very common in mexican cuisine.  


Seriously, does it get any better than this?


After our tour of the farm it was time to get to work.  This may have been the first time I’d ever seen my boyfriend, Jeff, hold a knife, and I have to say I was pretty impressed with his chopping skills.  He doesn’t know it yet, but now that he’s shown his skills he’s officially been promoted to my sous chef.  We started by chopping the veggies for our ratatouille-like filling for our chiles rellenos, made with carrots, zucchini, eggplant, onion, and squash. 



   I was put on stirring duty (and I  obviously took it very seriously).  To the left of me you’ll see a green vat of magic.  That was the key to this class-  a delicious oil packed with fresh herbs (oregano, espazote, rosemary, sage, basil, etc), garlic, and olive and sunflower oils.  We used this in almost every component of the meal, and I can’t wait to keep a jar of this stuff to use in my cooking at home.  Then we made a homemade fresh tomato sauce for the chiles, poached chicken and red mole sauce (no chocolate in this one which I loved), roasted vegetables, and herbed rice.  


Now all I need to recreate all this at home is a massive organic farm in my backyard and an oven like this one.  No problem.  


Drum roll please…the final product.  Here are the chiles rellenos. So fresh and healthy, with a little bit of crumbled cheese on top. These were sweet, smokey, a tad spicy, and I forsee myself dreaming about these for years to come.  


The main course was our chicken mole, which fell off the bone and was the perfect combination of about 40 ingredients in this sweet and spicy sauce.  Even the rice was special.  In mexico they fry the grains for a few minutes before adding the liquid so it doesn’t get too sticky, and we added tons of herbs to add flavor to the rice.  The vegetables were simply brushed with our magic oil and topped with extra garlic and fire roasted in the wood oven.  This was meal was amazing not only because of how tasty and fresh everything was, but also because we put in so much time and love into the meal…from picking the vegetables off of the farm only hours before to the very last bite.  This experience gave new meaning to “getting off your tush and cooking” for me, and if becoming and RD doesn’t work out you will likely find me working on the farm at Los Tamarindos.  Kidding.  But only sort of.   

Nutritional highlights:  Eat organic, support local farms, choose fresh/seasonal ingredients, get off your tush and cook.  The End.


Here’s the farm’s website in case you want to read more about it or visit if you are in Cabo.  

And here are the recipes for what we made(ish), although I can’t promise they will turn out quite the same without the fresh-off-the-farm produce and wood burning oven :)

“Magic” Herb Oil

Sorry, no specific recipe here, but just mix any fresh herbs you can get your hands on (we used basil, oregano, espazote, rosemary, and sage), some garlic, salt, pepper, and oil (we used a mix of olive and sunflower to raise the smoke point a bit).  As long as everything is cleaned well and there is no moisture in your container, you should be able to use this for a week or two without it going bad.  Proceed to cook everything you eat with this and prepare to be very happy.  

Chile Relleno with Vegetables

  • Dried Chile Poblano, 10 pieces
  • 4 zucchinis/yellow squash
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped (half for filling, half for sauce)
  • 3 green onions
  • 1 pound eggplant
  • 2 bell peppers (we used rainbow carrots instead of bell peppers)
  • 3 pounds tomatoes
  • 2 oz basil, chopped
  • 4 oz queso cotija
Directions:  Chop ingredients 2-7.  Heat olive oil and garlic or “magic oil” if you have it in a very large pan. Add vegetables in order of cooking time, starting with carrots or peppers, then onions, zucchini, then eggplant, then 1 lb of the tomatoes. Cook for about 20-30 minutes until the mixture has softened.  Season with salt and pepper.

For the sauce, heat magic oil in another pan and add the rest the garlic and then the chopped tomatoes.  Cover and cook for about 20-30 minutes until sauce has cooked down.  Add chopped basil, salt, and pepper.  

Construction:  Soak poblanos for 20 minutes in warm water and cut a slit on one side and remove the seeds.  Stuff them with the vegetable filling and top with the sauce.  Sprinkle with the cotija cheese and bake in at 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.  

Organic Chicken with Mole “Coloradito”

Ingredients:
  • 2 large organic chickens (5 lbs each), cut into pieces
  • 2 large onions
  • 3 carrots
  • 3 celery stalks
  • 2 garlic heads
  • salt and pepper to taste
Coloradito:
  • 1 pound coloradito mole paste (it has over 40 ingredients so best to buy it unless you are a super mole paste maker)
  • 2 QT chicken stock
Method:  In a large casserole, place the organic chicken pieces and cover with water.  Add onions, garlic, carrots, and celery and bring it to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and cover and let the chickens poach for 90 minutes.  (I think we only let them poach for about 40 minutes but finished it in the wood oven which must be why this recipe takes so long!)

Coloradito:  In a saucepan, break up the mole paste and cook at medium temperature for about 10 minutes.  add the chicken sauce and stir until you make a thick sauce.  Pour over the poached chicken and top with sesame seeds.  
Feb 172013
 

As I mentioned in my last post, for a project in my community nutrition class I was challenged to eat for a week as if I were on SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (you might think of it as “food stamps”).  The maximum amount an adult can receive is $200 a month, which is about $46 a week or about $6.50 a day.  The assignment was truly eye opening and I was surprised how challenging it was.  Not only was it almost impossible to stay within the budget, it was especially hard to maintain a healthy diet while doing so.  It took a ton of planning, time in the kitchen, and lots of meals alone, but in the end I was able to (just barely) stay within my budget.


The main thing I learned throughout this project is that staying on a tight budget can get very boring.  This week I had a lot less variety in my diet than I usually would because I stuck to the same few meals that I knew were inexpensive and easy to prepare.  The photo above shows a few of my go to meals and how much they cost.  Top left was my usual breakfast…peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole wheat bread with coffee.  No greek yogurt or Starbuck’s for me this week.

I also made a very inexpensive batch of turkey chili and to make it last even longer with smaller portions, I made chili and cheese stuffed sweet potatos (top right).  It definitely doesn’t look that appetizing above, but it was actually awesome and I would even eat it when I’m not on a serious budget. On the bottom left is a “pizza” made on a whole wheat tortilla with marinara sauce, a few mushrooms and onions, and shredded mozzarella.  Bottom right also a delicious creation…a hash of sweet potato, onion, and a few sliced brussel sprouts topped with a fried egg.  (Sadly, when you’re on food stamps and you break the yolk of your egg when you crack it into the pan, you just deal with it). Probably my favorite meal of all was this one–brown rice fried rice with frozen mixed vegetables, egg, and green onions.  


Nutritional highlights:  It really is tough to be healthy on a budget, but it can be done with planning and strategic shopping (thank you Trader Joe’s for your amazing prices and not letting me go hungry this week).  Healthy grains like quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, and whole wheat bread are all very affordable.  If you can’t afford fresh veggies, frozen vegetables are a great alternative.  Other great foods that are super healthy and inexpensive are sweet potatoes, eggs, edamame, bananas, and beans.  Other than the turkey chili that I ate almost every day (which was really more beans than turkey), I didn’t eat meat because it was just too expensive.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because it forced me to explore other less expensive protein options like quinoa, edamame, beans, peanut butter, and eggs.  I don’t think that my week on food stamps was anywhere near as healthy as a usual week (#carbo-loading), but with a little creativity I think I did OK and I challenge you all to try to think of creative was to tighten you budget a bit.  

General recipes for the meals I made this week:

Brown Rice Fried Rice on a budget: 
What you need for 1 serving: 2/3 cups cooked brown rice, 2/3 cups frozen mixed vegetables (i used a mix that had peas, carrots, corn, and green beans), 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms, 1 egg, 2 green onions, sesame oil, garlic, soy sauce (minced ginger would be great too but OK to skip on a budget).
How to make it:  Heat 1 tspn sesame oil in a very hot wok.  Add vegetables, ginger (if using) and garlic (powder or fresh are both fine), and saute until vegetables are tender and slightly browned.  Push to one side and add another half tsp of sesame oil.  Add the egg and break up yolk and stir into vegetables until it’s cooked.  Add brown rice and soy sauce and saute another few minutes.  Top with a few green onions and enjoy.

Chili and Cheese Stuffed Sweet Potatoes on a budget:
What you need for 1 serving: 1 baked sweet potato, 2/3 cup turkey or vegetable chili (store bought or homemade are both fine), 1/4 cup shredded cheese
How to make it:  Cut into the baked sweet potato (but not all the way through) to create an opening.  Fill with the turkey chili (it’s ok if it spills over).  Top with the shredded cheese and pop into the microwave for about 2 minutes.  

Tortilla Pizzas on a budget:
What you need for 1 serving: 1 whole wheat wrap, 1/4-1/2 cup marinara sauce, vegetables you have left over (I used mushrooms and onions), 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, garlic powder/chili flakes (optional)
How to make it:  Preheat oven to 425.  Place wrap on a baking sheet and top with marinara sauce.  Spread vegetables over crust and top with shredded cheese.  Cook for about 10-15 minutes until cheese is melted and brown and crust is crispy.  Top with a little garlic powder and red pepper flakes for a little flava.

Budget-friendly Sweet Potato and Brussel Sprout Hash with Fried Egg:
What you need for 1 serving: 1 egg, 1/2 sweet potato (chopped), 1/8th onion (chopped), 6 brussel sprouts (sliced), olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, chili flakes.
How to make it: Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high and add all the vegetables.  Cook for about 10-15 minutes until vegetables are soft and browned.  Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and chili flakes.  Transfer to a plate or bowl.  In the same skillet, heat another tspn of oil and fry one egg to your preference.  Serve over the hash and enjoy.

Jan 182013
 

I am of the belief that almost all foods are better in mini forms.  Sliders, tiny cupcakes (or basically anything baked in a mini muffin tin), donut holes, anything you can call a “shooter”.  I love it all.  There’s something so great about a perfect little bite, so when I stumbled across this recipe for Baby Stuffed Peppers I knew it was right up my alley.  Also, Giada has never done me wrong in the past. And these were definitely cute and little but still big on flavor.  


This recipe is so versatile and you can swap almost any filling ingredients you like, but I just followed the recipe as is this time for lack of creative inspiration.  I loved the combination of the sharp parmesan with the creamy pancetta, the sweet peas with the smokey pancetta. The only time consuming part of this recipe, really, was cleaning the peppers.  I have some pretty small hands, but even I struggled to pick out some of those tiny seeds.  But once you clean the peppers and mix up the filling, all you do is stuff, bake, and serve.  For baking ease, I stood them up in a mini muffin tin so the filling wouldn’t spill out.  This would be perfect as an app for any party, but I especially liked it as an upscale football nibble…the grown up mozzarella stick, if you will.


Nutritional Highlights:  You know that sweet peppers, big or small, are good for you just by looking at the bright colors.  They are a big source of carotenoids and Vitamin C.  In this recipe the peppers are only cooked for a short amount of time, to preserve as much of those good nutrients as possible.  I can’t say the filling here is super healthy…peas, onions, and ricotta are not so bad, but parmesan and pancetta are not the best in terms of fat and cholesterol.   But, these ingredients pack a big flavor punch so a little can go a long way.  Plus, these are so mini that each one only holds a few teaspoons of filling.  You can also easily make these vegetarian by leaving out the pancetta and adding other flavorful ingredients like garlic or mushrooms. 


baby stuffed peppers with ricotta, peas, & pancetta
adapted from Giada on the Food Network


Ingredients
  • Vegetable oil cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup frozen petite peas, thawed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • optional:  additional spices- I used red pepper flakes and garlic powder
  • 24 (2 to 3-inch long) sweet baby peppers
Directions
Place an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Spray a baking sheet or mini muffin tin with vegetable oil cooking spray and set aside.

In a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring frequently, until brown and crispy, about 5 to 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the pancetta and drain on paper towels. Add the onion to the pan and cook until translucent and soft, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine the onion, pancetta, cheeses, and peas. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Using a paring knife, cut 1/2-inch from the stem-end of the peppers. Remove the seeds and veins. Using a small dessert spoon, fill each pepper with the ricotta mixture. Place the filled peppers on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 15 to 18 minutes until the peppers begin to soften. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes.

Arrange the peppers on a platter, serve, and enjoy!


Jan 052013
 

Happy New Year!  I’m excited to get my tush cooking again with some new healthy recipes for 2013!  I’m working on a few this weekend so stay tuned.  In the meantime, I was home in Chicago for the holidays and we made a few pretty tasty things that I want to share.  Obviously I lugged my big camera there only to discover that the battery was dead, so please excuse the iphone photos in this post.  Had to share this first recipe, because it is beef!! Something you don’t see too often on tush cook…but this was the most amazing beef tenderloin I have ever had! (and a little beef every once in a while won’t kill ya).


My family always expects me to know how to cook everything, but when my dad brought home this giant beef tenderloin, I didn’t really know where to start.  So we sat down and found this video on fine cooking and just did exactly what we were told.  It started with a quick sear of the beef to get a nice crust, then got a yummy rub of whole grain mustard, garlic, and lots of dried herbs, and then went into the oven to roast until it hit 120 degrees (for medium rare).  Along with some roasted brussel sprouts, potatoes, and salad, it was the perfect meal for a low key New Year’s Eve.



Along with the beef tenderloin we got at Costco, I insisted that we buy this ginormo container of beautiful blueberries.  Despite my mom’s warning (challenge?) that there was no way I would eat them all, I promised I would.  When I obviously did not achieve that by the end of my trip, I decided on a whim to make some homemade blueberry pancakes.  I followed this recipe from Damn Delicious almost exactly with the exception of adding some ground flax seed and swapping some whole wheat flour to make them even healthier.  They were absolutely amazing and super healthy (until I loaded on the maple syrup that is).  Oatmeal and greek yogurt might be odd sounding ingredients for pancakes, but you have to have to try it.


All in all, 2012 was a great year with the highlight definitely being the arrival of my nephew, Owen, on Halloween.  He just so happened to also be my New Year’s kiss.  Can you think of anything better than  this?

Dec 102012
 

For one of my grad school classes, we had to plan and execute the food service of an NYU event from start to finish.  My group catered the holiday party for the nutrition department, and I’ve gotta say I’m pretty impressed with what we came up with.  Among the spread were fig-tallegio grilled cheese, buckwheat flatbread with hummus and caramelized onion, cumin and chive deviled eggs, and NYU colored rainbow cookies.  Possibly the most interesting item were these Carrot-Cardamom Soup Shooters, which were topped with a homemade aleppo pepper marshmallow, a few pumpkin seeds, and a cilantro leaf.  Pretty fancy huh?  


Although I like to try to keep the recipes on this site pretty simple, once in a while I like to share something a little more challenging and outside of the tush cook box.  This soup is also completely vegan (although the marshmallow is not due to the egg whites) and although it tastes creamy, the creaminess comes from coconut milk rather than cream.  I’m not sure I’d want to eat this as a whole bowl of this soup, but it was really interesting and tasty as a mini shooter.  Plus, it’s one of few holiday appetizers that won’t leave you feeling totally stuffed!


Check out the spread at our event below.  So tasty!  



Carrot Cardamom Soup with Aleppo Marshmallow, Pumpkin Seed Oil, and Cilantro
recipe from Saxon + Parole
Serves eight (one cup each)


For the soup
1 tsp. honey
1 can (480 ml) coconut milk
3½ c. hot water
Juice of ½ lemon
2 green cardamom pods
½ of a fist-size white onion, peeled and sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 thumb ginger, peeled and finely minced (using a microplane is best)
2 oz. unsalted butter (or olive oil)
1⅔ lb. carrots, peeled and sliced
Salt to taste


1. Combine liquids (honey, coconut milk, water, lemon juice) and set aside.

2. Combine cardamom, onion, garlic, ginger, and butter in a pot and place over low heat. Sweat until everything is soft and translucent.

3. Add carrots and turn heat to high. Cook 2-3 minutes, stirring, and then add liquids.

4. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until carrots are soft, about 30 minutes. Remove the cardamom pods.

5. Puree soup in a food processor until smooth. Add salt to taste.

For the Aleppo marshmallow (this can be omitted, but it was fun and fancy so I’m sharing the recipe!)


1 1/8 c. sugar
1½ tsp. Aleppo (Syrian dried chili flakes)
4 sheets of gelatin, soaked in cold water
Cornstarch

1. Heat a pot of water on high until it comes to a simmer.

2. Put egg white, sugar, and chili flakes in the bowl of an electric mixer and place the bowl over simmering water. Stir to melt sugar into egg whites. Remove from heat.

3. Separately, squeeze excess water out of gelatin sheets and place them in a small mixing bowl. Put that bowl over the warm water until the gelatin liquefies. Set aside.

4. Place the bowl with the egg whites into the electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on high until stiff peaks form.

5. Slow speed to medium and pour in melted gelatin. Whisk until incorporated.

6. Pour mixture onto a half-size sheet pan that’s been lightly oiled and dusted well with cornstarch.

7. Sift more cornstarch over the top.

8. Refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours. Cut into desired size and shape.


To serve
Herb oil or pumpkin seed oil
Chili flakes
Toasted pumpkin seeds
Cilantro Leaves

1. Reheat soup if needed and portion into shot glasses
2. Place a marshmallow in the center of each serving 
3. Drizzle oil, sprinkle flakes and seeds, and garnish with cilantro.

Nov 292012
 

Have some extra pureed pumpkin lying around from that pumpkin pie?  Or pecans from the pecan pie you wish you hadn’t had that extra slice of?  Or dried cranberries from, well, whatever you used cranberries in?  Well you are in luck because this recipe will use up all of those without making you feel the miserable sugar hangover that the pie did last week.  You may think you’re pumpkin-ed out, but once you try this amazingly healthy and delicious Pumpkin Spice Granola, I guarantee you won’t be.


Granola is one of those foods that can be deceivingly unhealthy when you buy the store bought kind, but when you make it at home you see exactly what’s going in.  This version has oats, quinoa, tons of nuts/seeds (pepitas, almonds, pecans), dried cranberries, and is flavored with maple syrup, pumpkin, and spices.  This might just be my new favorite granola recipe…well at least in the fall.  Also, did I mention that this is super easy to make?  Well, it is.


Nutritional Highlights:  After the eating free for all that was Thanksgiving week (for me at least) you may be looking for a healthy change.  This granola has tons of protein and fiber so it will keep you full all morning.  I had never used quinoa in granola before, but was excited about the nice crunch it added and of course a ton of protein.  Compared to store bought versions, this granola is significantly lower in fat and sugar.  Still, try to keep serving size between 1/4 and 1/2 cup because even though it’s super healthy, it still has a decent amount of fat and calories from the nuts.  Serve over fruit with greek yogurt or skim milk for a healthy fall breakfast!


Plus, granola makes a great homemade holiday gift that everyone will love!  You can also get a little fancy lik I did and serve the granola over a scooped out pear half filled with greek yogurt and a little dab of cranberry sauce on the side for color :)


Pumpkin Spice Granola
adapted from Skinny Taste 

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed well and pat dry with paper towel
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats (not all oats are gluten free so if you want gluten free granola make sure to pick your oats carefully.
  • Optional: 1/4 cup ground flaxseeds and/or 1/4 cup wheat bran 
  • 1/4 cup pepitas (or other seed)
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup real maple syrup (or honey)
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 tsp oil (coconut or canola)
  • 1 tsp pumpkin spice (or more to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract


Directions:

Preheat oven to 325° F. 

Spread oats* and quinoa out on a parchment lined baking pan. Toast in the oven 10 minutes, stirring once.

Remove the oats from the oven, pour the toasted oats into a medium bowl and addthe ground flaxseed/wheat bran, pepitas, almonds, pecans and dried fruit.

Reduce oven to 300° F.

In a second medium bowl, combine maple syrup, pumpkin puree, oil, pumpkin spice, cinnamon, salt and vanilla. Pour over oats and stir together with a spatula.Spread back onto a baking sheet and bake an additional 30 minutes, or until golden.

If you want to serve it in the pear boats, simply cut pears in half vertically, scoop out some of the center and fill with greek yogurt.  Top with pumpkin spice granola and enjoy.  If not, a bowl will do the trick!

Nov 202012
 

Last night was a very important holiday, in case you didn’t know.  Friendsgiving.  It occurs the Sunday before Thanksgiving and consists of a potluck with a few friends and lots of amazing food.  This year was the second annual Friendsgiving and the meal may have even topped last year.  I obviously had to stick with something semi-healthy, but still full of comforting fall flavors, so I made a quinoa risotto with mixed mushrooms, roasted butternut squash and lots of parmesan cheese.  This is one Thanksgiving side that you won’t feel guilty eating again on day two. 


Sorry for the terrible photos here…this is what happens when you don’t take pictures during daylight.  Had to take a picture of this plate and tell you a little bit about it.  We had phyllo wrapped asparagus (a la Paula Dean…no shame here), pancetta-gruyere sweet potatoes (probably MVP of the meal and also most likely to give you a heart attack but totally worth it), sourdough bread stuffing, brussel sprouts with pancetta (yes, that’s the second time I’ve said pancetta…again, no shame), and my creations, pear-pomegranate-goat cheese-pecan salad (duh), and my quinoa risotto.  Oh, and Jeff would never forgive me if I forgot to mention the dish he slaved over all day…rotisserie chicken from whole foods.  Close enough to turkey, right?  


Nutritional Highlights:  Thanksgiving isn’t really a time of the year I believe in counting calories, but I also don’t mind having a few options on the Thanksgiving spread that aren’t going to add to your food hangover.   This side dish is also gluten  free, for all you glutards of the world!  Try a side like this with healthy grains and vegetables or a salad with fall fruits and nuts.  Because the more vegetables you eat the more room there will be for pie.  Fact.  


Wild Mushroom and Butternut Squash Quinoa Risotto

Ingredients:

  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 8 ounces mixed mushrooms (cremini, shitake, etc), cleaned and sliced
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 5 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth, kept warm (but not boiling) in a sauce pan
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 2 shallots, small dice
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup shaved parmesan or other sharp cheese (I used mix of parmesan, reggiano, and asiago and it was great!)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, plus additional for garnish, divided
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil
Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 425.  Toss butternut squash in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper.  Spread in one layer on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 20-30 minutes, shaking the pan halfway through, until squash is slightly browned and soft.  
  • While the squash is cooking, cook the mushrooms.  In a large skillet heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat.  Add half of the shallot and half of the garlic and saute for 1 minute.  Add the sliced mushrooms and saute until golden and soft, about 10 minutes.  Remove from skillet and set aside.
  • Over medium heat, add another 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the remaining garlic and shallot and saute for about 3 minutes.  Add the quinoa and 1 tablespoon thyme and stir for about 3 minutes until quinoa is coated with oil and slightly toasted.  Lower the heat to medium-low and add the white wine and stir until absorbed.  Pour about 1/2 cup of warm broth into the quinoa and continue to stir and simmer until it is completely absorbed.  Allow pan to almost dry out between additions of broth.  Keep stirring in broth 1/2 cup at a time until the quinoa is creamy and the quinoa germ has burst, about 30 minutes.  
  • Once the last addition of broth is almost absorbed, stir in the parmesan cheese, remove pan from heat, cover with a lid and let stand for 2 minutes to help develop the creamy texture.  Stir in the mushrooms and butternut squash.  Garnish with additional parmesan cheese and fresh thyme leaves.  
  • Enjoy as a healthy component of your Thanksgiving feast or for dinner any night in the fall/winter!