Fizzy Bath Bombs

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I don’t take baths, but I know someone who does, and I love the science behind putting bath bombs together, so the time has come to make them for real. I looked at a bunch of different recipes on the internet, including Martha Stewart, and many of them in the comments complained that they didn’t work properly. Several of them pointed to this basic recipe from Lynden House as the best one they’ve used. So that’s what I used.

Grab yourself a decent sized bowl, plastic, glass, metal – whatever. Tip in 1/2 teaspoon essential oil of your choice.

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This particular one I used a mixture of sweet orange, patchouli, and lemongrass. I find patchouli too strong on its own but it’s nice when you combine it with other things. Then it reminds me less of this scene from High Fidelity

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Add in as well 1/2 teaspoon of water, liquid dye, or witch hazel. Many people prefer witch hazel because the water is reactive with our next set of ingredients and you can make errors that way. I certainly did, and I’ll show you in a minute.

In my mind I also decided to add some orange zest to this shebang, which is a great idea. If the zest is dried. This is fresh. Meaning it contains water.

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Which is reactive with citric acid. Which is another ingredient.

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Anyway. On top of the liquid, add 1 1/4 cups baking soda.

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Then dump in 1/4 cup epsom salts.

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And 3/4 cup citric acid. You can pick this up from a variety of health food stores. I’m currently having some trouble finding a store that hasn’t run out at the moment, but it’s pretty common.

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Start mixing that up with your hands. You want to get it to the point where it starts to squish together in your hands and holds its shape. Resist the urge to add more moisture – if you keep mixing you’ll probably find that you don’t need it.

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Now grab a mold. You can use plastic ornaments (Dollarama) and make giant spheres, but I found I enjoyed the size of one of those plastic capsules you get out of vending machines.

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Pack your mixture into the mold and press it down tightly.

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Open the mold and set your bath bomb on waxed paper to dry overnight.

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This recipe made 9 or 10 bombs in that particular size.

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But of course because I’d added that zest, it started to react with the citric acid.

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They started to expand.

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And kept expanding.

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I don’t think they’ll be as fizzy but they still smell nice. Once I can track down some more citric acid I’m going to re-make that batch.

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Another batch I mixed together some dried lavender flowers with some dried sage from my own garden. I used lavender and sage essential oils as well.

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I whazzed it up in my spice grinder and had this smelly powdery stuff left over.

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This mixture ended up more dry than my last one, partly because of the plant material and partly because I had less citric acid to work with and so compensated with extra baking soda. If the mix is too dry, don’t add water to it – add a drizzle (a TINY drizzle) of olive oil instead. It’s good on the skin and won’t react to the acid.

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These ones packed perfectly into ten tiny bombs with no expansion.

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I had a few crumbs left over in the bottom of the bowl.

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So I put some water in to enjoy the fizz.

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Store your flavours separately in jars or bags so the scents don’t mix. They make great gifts and are pretty enough to display (though I wouldn’t leave them in open air in humid places like the bathroom).

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Pureed Pucks of Roasted Garlic

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I was at the grocery store recently and I found a huge bag of garlic, 18 heads of it in total, for a whopping $2.49! I quickly nabbed a bag and surreptitiously shoved it through the scanner at the cash in the hopes that it wasn’t a pricing error. So now I had 18 heads of garlic to deal with. I of course roasted them all. If you’ve never done it, check out my instructions here. Now, roasting 18 heads of garlic means that your eyes are watering and you will never get the smell of roasted garlic out of the house, but it’s a worthy sacrifice.

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I let it cool and then carefully popped each gloriously caramelized clove of sweet roasted garlicky goodness out of the head and into my food processor. I saved one head for a soup I was making, but there are 17 heads in there.

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Then I gave it a whaz. Hello, gorgeous.

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Then I sprayed a mini muffin tin with olive oil and shoved my new garlic paste into the cups. There are only twelve cups in this tin so it’s like concentrated garlic goodness: each one contains almost one and a half heads of roasted garlic.

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Pop that in the freezer overnight, then store the frozen lovely pucks in an airtight bag in the freezer and use as needed in soups and sauces and whatever else you want. When it comes to roasted garlic, the sky is the limit.

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Purple Rice and Beef-ish Stew

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I know what you’re thinking: holy moly this woman makes a lot of beef stew. You don’t know the half of it. But each one is different, because I make them up as I go along. So I hope in posting as many of them as occur to me to photograph, you can draw some inspiration for flavour combinations!

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It started with this package of frozen stewing meat I inherited from Atlas’ freezer. It likely came from her parents’ organic hobby farm in BC, or from one of the people with whom her dad has a trade deal. And, given the nature of some of the other things I’ve inherited from Atlas, it could very well be goat, and not beef. In fact it’s probably goat. So I tried to adjust the spices such that it would work for goat, or beef. But what do I know.

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I grabbed my big stock pot and chopped up an onion, which I chucked in the pot with some butter and olive oil and sautéed until it was soft and smelled amazing.

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Then I pitched in the beef/goat/mystery meat, together with some salt and pepper, and cooked that until it was browned on all the edges.

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While that was going on I prepped everything else. Seeing as I had some on hand from my recent Krupnikas-fest, I decided to grate some fresh turmeric into the mix, to give the broth a nice earth-flavour. If you like the earth flavour, then you could probably add some fresh beets to the stew. They’ll definitely give the stew some colour.

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In fact, the turmeric would, under normal circumstances, have dyed my stew a lovely yellow colour, save that I’m putting purple rice in it, and purple rice dyes everything, too. The turmeric did, however, dye my fingers yellow.

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And some of the counter. I miss our all-black counter from Elizabeth.

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Fact, though: if you spray bleach on a turmeric stain, like this one:

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It will turn from yellow to orange, and then just wipe away.

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I added some freshly grated ginger to the pile as well, because I had a whole bunch of it in the fridge.

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Then I chopped up a medium-sized rutabaga. While not as absorbent as potatoes in stew, rutabagas and turnips hold their shape well while also providing some of the mushiness you expect from other root vegetables and tubers.

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And a giant (GIANT) carrot.

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And some cauliflower.

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And my purple rice. It’s kind of obscene how purple it makes everything else, but I love it.

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And a head of roasted garlic. Because everything is better with garlic. I popped the cloves out and roughly chopped them.

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I chucked all that in the pot, together with some concentrated vegetable and beef broth and a whole lot of water. Remember when you’re putting uncooked rice or pasta into a soup or stew to add extra water as it will be absorbed.

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I also sprinkled in some ground cumin and yellow curry powder.

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Bring that whole thing to simmer for about an hour, until the meat is cooked through and the vegetables are squishable with a spoon.

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Serve hot (because it’s a stew, silly). Sooooo satisfying and purple!

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When in doubt, make soup!

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My parents are down in Florida and I’m looking after the house while they’re gone. This entailed cleaning out the fridge after they left, and so I arrived home with this oddment of groceries: 1 small zucchini, 4 wilted green onions, 2 baby bok choi, 9 multicoloured carrots, half a large sweet onion, half a large rutabaga, and half a large Savoy cabbage.

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Welp, that looks like a soup to me. Fortunately I had some stewing beef in the freezer which I chucked in the sink to defrost. Then I got to chopping.

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I also chopped up 1 head of garlic, and sautéed it with the onions in a large stockpot with a drop of olive oil until they were soft and sweet.

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Remember when cutting up rutabagas to be very careful. Slice off the top and bottom first so you have a flat surface to work on before you go after the skin, as it will be tough, especially if it’s been waxed.

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I added all the other chopped veg to the pot. I only scrubbed the carrots, didn’t peel them. All that vitamin-y goodness is in the skin and these are such tender carrots it seemed like a waste to remove the skin.

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Make sure to dry your beef before you brown it. It will make browning way quicker.

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I also like to dredge it in flour for a nice crust, and the flour will help thicken the stew as it cooks. You can use rice flour for a gluten-free option.

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Brown the meat until it has a nice seared edge all the way around.

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Then you can chuck that in the pot, too. I added about 8 cups water and two mini cups of concentrated beef bouillon, but go with whatever floats your boat.

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Give it a stir and set it to simmer for about 30-45 minutes, until the rutabagas are soft when you smush them with a spoon.

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I added in a pinch of ground nutmeg and cloves, as well as a few teaspoons of dried oregano. Add salt and pepper as well, if you like.

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To combat the bitterness of the cabbage I also added in a few tablespoons each of maple syrup and rice vinegar (it sounds weird, I know, but it works). You can also use cider vinegar.

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My scrumptious savoury stew!

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I shoved it into large freezer bags that I froze flat for easy storage. I can’t wait to haul one of these babies out in the dead of winter for some comfort food!

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Spicy Fried Eggs: In the Woods

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This quick hot lunch is adapted from a breakfast I found in The Camping Cookbook, and it sure beats a soggy sandwich any day.

Finely chop up 1 large onion and sauté it in 2 tablespoons olive oil until translucent. Sorry for the blur: it was such a dark and gloomy camping trip.

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While that’s going on, finely chop up as well 1 red pepper, 2 large tomatoes and a garlic clove or two (I roasted some garlic before I left so I brought it along and mashed it in).

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Add that to the pan as well as 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes (the Pie is mad for chili flakes, so I may have added extra).

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Season that with salt and pepper, then cover and let that simmer for about 10 minutes, until you have a lovely sort of almost-sauce. Dig a few holes in the sauce and crack in 2 or more eggs. Cover the pan and let that cook for about 5 minutes, or until the eggs are done to your liking.

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We served ours with a bit of grated cheese on top, and a roll of bread on the side and it was a super satisfying lunch!

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Chicken with Tarragon Butter: In the Woods

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This is a great make-ahead meal for two for a short camping trip from The Camping Cookbook. I froze all the ingredients before we left so they would stay cool and solid until I needed them.  Feel free to increase the recipe if you have more campers. You may have seen a few teaser shots of this from last week, because I was so very clever in my pre-preparation.

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Start with 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Slice those in half, lengthwise, so you have four long strips.  If you think those strips are too big, slice the breasts into three or four, depending on your preference.

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Mix together your marinade of  1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons water, 1 teaspoon granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, and 3 teaspoons olive oil.

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Shove your chicken into the marinade for at least 30 minutes(I put mine in a plastic container and froze it).

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Meanwhile, mix up your lovely compound butter.

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Stir together 1/4 cup softened butter with 1/3 cup fresh tarragon, chopped, and a finely minced shallot (use 1/4 of a small onion if that’s all you have).

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I chucked this in the freezer as well.

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When you’re ready to go, pull your (thawed) chicken out of the marinade and grill it on the fire/stove until cooked through, which will depend on how thick you sliced it. This looks sickly because it was gloomy under the tarp where I was cooking and I needed a flashlight to see…

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Serve hot with dollops of the tarragon butter on top. I actually forgot to pull out the butter until we were all done so I put it in the hot pan to let it melt.

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We served this with some peas and corn and garlic mashed potatoes.

For the peas and corn, mix together 1 cup frozen peas and 1 cup frozen corn and steam for a minute or so until cooked.

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Toss the cooked vegetables with 1/4 cup finely chopped mint and 2 tablespoons butter.

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Again, I mixed the herbs into the butter ahead of time and froze it.

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For the potatoes, boil and mash 2 potatoes of your choosing. I like to leave the skins on.

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Scoop in 2 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons cream cheese, 2 teaspoons mixed herbs (fresh or dried, your choice), and 2 teaspoons minced garlic (I made a compound of this ahead of time) and serve.

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TADA. Gourmet in the woods.

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Made-up Macaroni Salad

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Pasta salads are ideal for summer parties.  You can make them ahead of time and you don’t have to worry about heating up the house.  This one came together on the fly, as most of them tend to do.  I stuck with a reddish theme and it worked out.

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Start with a bowl of cooked pasta.  I used cavatappi, or Scoobi-do pasta.

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Chucked in a diced onion, tomatoes, garlic, red peppers, and green olives.

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Then some fresh oregano, chives, and some cubed feta.

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Then I decided to throw in a few bocconcini as well.  I also tossed in some tandoori spice and some Hungarian paprika for kick.

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When you make a pasta salad, make a lot of dressing to go with it, because the pasta will absorb so much extra liquid.  The base of this one was olive oil, maple syrup, Tabasco, and rice vinegar.

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As I said, make a lot.

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Put half in now and then the other half right before you serve it.

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TADA.

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There was enough left over that I added some pasta sauce to it, topped it with cheese, and baked it into a casserole afterwards.  Waste not!

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Watermelon and Feta Salad

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Mrs. Nice made this delightful dish for us when we were over for lunch last week and it really hit the spot during that blasted heat wave. She learned it from a man at the grocery store who had been setting out samples and she was immediately hooked.  After tasting it, so was I, and so I made it for a further lunch (on my family’s side) the following weekend.

A note in advance: keep all your ingredients chilled and separate until just before serving or everything will go mushy.

Start with a decently-sized seedless watermelon (or mostly seedless, as was the case here).

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Crack that puppy open by cutting off the ends and paring off the rest of the rind.

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Cut it into slices and then chop those up into cubes and chuck them in a large bowl.

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Chop up as well a large red onion.  That can be pitched into the bowl as well.  You might want to start tossing the ingredients together with your hands so you don’t destroy the watermelon.

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Grab yourself a bunch of fresh mint.

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Pull off the leaves and chop those up finely as well.

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Sprinkle those over your watermelon.

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Finally, haul over a good-sized hunk of firm feta cheese and cut that up as finely or as coarsely as you like.

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Dump that in the salad as well and toss to mix it all up.

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Juice a lime and pour the juice into a bowl.

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Add in about 1 tablespoon (a glop) olive oil and whisk to emulsify.

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Drizzle that over your salad and eat it all up!
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… Squasage?

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I did not name this, for the record.  When I was looking up basic cooking times on the internet, I found one for sausage-stuffed squash that was entitled “Squasage” and now I can’t get it out of my head.  Sorry about that.

Anyway, I had this squash (I think it’s a kabocha?) that needed eating and this is what I decided to do with it — it makes a nice winter meal for two.

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Preheat your oven to 400°F and cut your squash in half.  I use a grapefruit spoon to remove the seeds — it’s easier that way.

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Place the squash cut-side-up on a baking dish or in a roasting pan and brush with olive oil.  Dust with salt and pepper and roast for about an hour, until you can poke it all over with a fork with little resistance.

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In the meantime, rinse and drain 1/2 cup quinoa.  This is red quinoa.

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Dump the quinoa in a small pot with 1 cup broth (your choice) and bring to a boil.

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Lower the heat, cover it, and let it simmer until the broth is all absorbed.  It’ll look all fluffy with little white tails like this when it’s done, after about 15 minutes.

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You’ll also want to chop up some veg, about half an onion and half a red pepper.  Or a whole pepper.  Up to you.

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I had three Italian sausages here, but you can use two as well.

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Slice open the casing and dump the contents into a bowl.

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Heat up some olive oil in a pan and start sautéing your onions.

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When they’re soft and translucent, add your sausage and break it up with a spoon while it cooks.

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When it’s cooked completely, add in your red pepper and some herbs.  I used fines herbes, a combination of things like parsley, chervil, marjoram, and chives.

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Stir that around for a bit until the red pepper is softer.

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Then you can dump in the quinoa and lower the heat just to keep the whole thing warm until the squash is ready.

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In a small bowl, dump in a few teaspoons panko bread crumbs and a little bit of grated cheese (your choice).  Mix that together.

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When the squash is ready, lower the oven heat to 350°F and start spooning the sausage mixture into your squash halves.  You may end up with leftover mix, but it makes a great lunch the next day.

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When the squash halves are holding as much as they can, sprinkle the cheese/panko mix over the top and chuck it back in the oven for about 15 minutes, until everything is thoroughly warm, the cheese is melted, and the bread crumbs are starting to brown.

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The result is an all-in-one, piping hot meal.

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We did find it easier to tip out the contents and scrape out the softened squash before mixing it all together and eating it.  It was less molten that way.

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Rice Pilaf with Tomatoes

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I’ve been on a pilaf kick recently, ever since I had one at the Savoy last week and I can’t even deal with how good it was.  They’re really easy to make, too, just a few extra steps more than plain Jane rice.  Why not? This version serves 6 comfortably, with leftovers.

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I had half a 28oz can of diced tomatoes in the fridge as well as some shallots left over from probably Christmas so I figured I’d do something to use them up and take advantage of my overstock of Trader Joe’s Wild Rice Medley.

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I chopped up a handful of mushrooms and shallots and set those aside.

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Then I dumped a hunk of butter and some olive oil into a skillet and let that melt on medium-high heat.

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When it was all melted and foamy I tipped in 2 cups wild rice medley (you can use whichever rice you wish, of course).  I had a bit of black rice hanging around as well so I chucked that in too.

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Stir that around until it gets all coated with butter.  You’re basically toasting it here, so you want it to get a bit brown and smoky.

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Now you can add in your vegetables and stir them around a bit.

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I left the tomatoes until last because I wanted the onions and mushrooms to soften a bit.

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Now you add your stock.  Any stock you like.  Just make sure that it works according to your rice’s cooking directions.  This rice requires 2 1/2 cups liquid for every cup of rice.  I had 4 cups broth in my little carton here, plus a cup of liquid in the tomatoes.

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Give that a stir, then cover it and let it simmer for the allotted time given in the cooking directions (with mine it was 40 minutes).  I stirred mine occasionally, but only because I’m paranoid about burning rice.  I’m really good at burning rice.

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When it’s cooked take the lid off and remove it from the heat and let it sit for about ten minutes.

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We served ours next to a bed of greens and topped with a pan-seared half chicken breast.  It was lovely!

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