easy recipes

Strain then Stir (Episode 5): Becoming a Member of the Squash Squad

Honest question: did you know there is more than one kind of squash?

Did you know there are more than ten different types of squash?

Yeah, well, I definitely DID NOT.

But I’m learning. And if I’m learning, than I think you should be learning—if only because squash is a delicious subject that you (and your taste buds) should know more about.

First off, let’s meet the squash family as a whole:

There’s:

  • Butternut Squash (a.k.a B’Nut)
  • Kabocha Squash (a.k.a Kabby)
  • Spaghetti Squash (a.k.a SpaSqua)
  • Acorn Squash (a.k.a Ace)
  • Sweet Dumpling Squash (a.k.a Sweetie D)
  • Sugar Pumpkin (a.k.a Sugar P)
  • Red Kuri Squash (a.k.a Big Red)
  • Delicata Squash (a.k.a DC)
  • Carnival Squash (a.k.a Carnee)
  • Buttercup Squash (a.k.a Baby B)
  • Blue Hubbard Squash (a.k.a Blubby)
  • Banana Squash (a.k.a Lil Nana)

I haven’t met the whole fam yet. In fact, I’ve really only dipped my toe into the squash squad. But if things keep going the way they’re going, I think I’m on track to be invited to Thanksgiving next year.

On that note, let me formally introduce you to the squash I already scheme with. The gourds I’m already getting down with. The—okay no, I think two was enough.

Note: All squash pictures (squash snapshots? squashots?) featured below belong to Food Network. I got them from this article, where you can find more recipes and information about the squash fam—though no cool nicknames!

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First up, Spaghetti Squash.

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SpaSqua was a love of my life I didn’t know existed for far too long. I’ve mentioned him in a previous post, but I feel it’s only fair to bring him back up—because WOW. I even have a folder on my computer marked “Spaghetti Squash recipes” that I fully intend on trying the minute I get my hands on another SpaSqua. In the meantime, here’s old faithful that first proved to me the spaghetti squash’s flavorful worth.

Spaghetti Squash

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On my to-do list:

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Next, Acorn Squash

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Ace was a squash I never thought I’d ever meet, but now that I have, I hope we never grow apart. Like any squash, I had to research what Ace was all about. How do I cut her? How do I cook her? How do I help her reach her maximum YUM? Enter this recipe stage right, which made all of my dreams come true. I made it without ground beef—because I forgot to buy it—but it was still delicious and filling and hey I feel healthy and not gross after I finished it. And I mean, what else can you ask for?

Stuffed Acorn Squash

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On my to-do list:

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And finally, Butternut Squash!

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I think it’s safe to say B’nut got his name because of his similarity in shape to a p’nut peanut. It’s also safe to say their similarities stop there—except if you count that they both have a hard exterior and a delicious surprise in the center, but other than that, they’re really totally different. After sifting through a bunch of different B’nut recipes, I ended up deciding on this pancake recipe, because I was in a breakfast for dinner type of mood, and I was pleasantly surprised at how moist and delicious they were! The recipe was super easy to follow, especially after I followed this advice on how to get a quick and easy “butternut squash mash” for the batter, and I personally thought the pancakes were great with honey on top.

Butternut Squash Pancakes

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On my to-do list:

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Y’all, just trust me on this: your world is better with squash in it. With allll the squash in it. And with fall officially here, it’s the perfect time to meet a squash you never met before. Tell them Kim sent you—some of them will know me.


 

Read the previous episode of Strain then Stir here.

Strain the Stir (Episode 4): I’ve Leveled Up!

Hello and welcome back to another episode of Strain Then Stir, a no-cameras, diary-esque cooking show blog where I attempt to transform myself from a two-meal Tina into a full course Frank…or at the very least, be capable of feeding myself more than cereal and pasta.

In the time since our last episode, and I don’t want to get cocky, but I think it’s safe to say I’ve leveled up.

As mentioned in my latest favorites post, I recently signed up for Imperfect Produce, which is a company that sells you fruits and vegetable which, while perfectly edible and delicious, are not quite “pretty” enough to be sold in stores. I signed up for the small box that comes every two weeks, and each Thursday before I get a new box, I get an email giving me the option to customize it.

Now, in an effort to improve my cooking ~skills~ I’ve tried not to make too many adjustments to each prepared box. Often when I log in to make my customizations, I just remove the foods I don’t like (such as lettuce or cilantro) and then leave the rest the same. That way, when I receive my box, I’m forced to look up recipes that incorporate both the ingredients I’ve been given and those I have in my kitchen, and I do my best to make something delicious!

Here are some of my favorite creations so far:

Steak & Nectarine Salad

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In one of my first boxes I received two nectarines. And since I’d never even tried a nectarine, I was not only worried whether I would like them, but I also had no idea how I could use them in a recipe. When I found this one however, I was sold. I even made a separate trip to the grocery store to pick up a cheap cut of steak. It was worth it. (Note: For anyone out there who is a fellow lettuce hater, I forwent it in this recipe and it was still absolutely delicious!) (Find the recipe here)

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Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Red Onions & Feta

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I am no stranger to the magic that is sweet potatoes, so when I got one in my box, I had a number of ideas pop into my head. This one however, helped me figure out a good way to combine a few things that I already had, as well as use one of the red onions I got in my box as well. (Find the recipe here)

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Spaghetti Squash

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Being an avid watcher of Food Network and skimmer of cooking blogs, I’ve heard my fair share about spaghetti squash. But after receiving one in my box, I still had to Google what it actually was. I had no idea how to cut it or what you do with it afterwards, and I wondered if my carb worshipping ways would hinder my ability to give it a fair chance. Thankfully, it took all of one bite to fall head over heels in love. Now, I’m not saying I’m breaking up with pasta or anything, but you can put it on the record that I’m having a full blown affair. (Find the recipe here)

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Apricot Smoothie

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Apricots were another fruit that I’d seen around but had never really made up my mind whether I liked them or not. On an average shopping trip, I never would have picked some up, but when I had four arrive in one of my boxes, I had to expand my horizons a little. I’ll admit however, I did do a good amount of procrastinating on these. Every day I’d vow to either bring one with me to work as a snack or bake a few into some kind of dessert, but then every day I’d forget or get lazy or just plain not want to. Sooner or later however, the apricots (with an assist by the hot summer weather) took matters into their own hands. They started to fade fast, threatening to be completely wasted, and so I finally took the time to find them a home. The end result was delicious and jump started me on a smoothie kick, so I guess thanks is in order, apricots! (Note: I used almond milk instead of yogurt, and vanilla extract instead of almond extract because that’s all that I had. It still tasted good though, and gave my morning a good fresh start!) (Find recipe here)

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Bonus Recipes:

In the spirit of my growing cooking confidence, for my family’s Fourth of July barbecue I decided to branch out and make two special dishes. These weren’t based on anything that came in my Imperfect Produce boxes, but rather foods I thought my family would enjoy. Thankfully, they were both a hit!

Jalapeno and Goat Cheese Grilled Stuffed Mini Peppers

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My sister is lactose intolerant, so oftentimes holidays like the Fourth of July will offer a bunch of delicious foods that she can’t have. In order to try and combat that on one of her favorite holidays, I made these which feature two of her favorite things: goat cheese and spice. It was a super quick and easy to follow recipe and both she and my dad loved them! Also, if you don’t like/can’t handle spicy food (a.k.a me), I made a few with just goat cheese and they were delicious as well! (Find the recipe here)

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Banana Cream Pie Muddy Buddies

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These were for my mom. Growing up, she often made Muddy Buddies for a wide variety of get togethers, so when I found these, I naturally thought of her, both for that reason, and because she instantly loves anything banana flavored. One tip I have for this recipe a la my mom: pour your Chex mixture into freezer sized Ziploc bags when you are ready to mix in the powdered sugar. That way, rather than trying to keep it all contained in a bowl, simply pour the sugar into the bag, zip it up and shake. (Find the recipe here)

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Here’s to another few months of trying my best, which, as it turns out, is getting better day by day! Who would’ve thought there was this great big world outside of pasta and cereal. (No offense pasta and cereal, I still love you.)


Read the previous episode of Strain then Stir here.

Strain then Stir (Episode 3): How to be Ingredient Conscious (Part 2)

Hello and welcome back to another episode of Strain Then Stir, a no-cameras, diary-esque cooking show blog where I attempt to transform myself from a two-meal Tina into a full course Frank…or at the very least, be capable of feeding myself more than cereal and pasta.

It has been quite a while since our last episode, though I suppose I have the holidays (and blunt procrastination) to blame for that. It always seems like the beginning of November turns into the beginning of January in the blink of an eye, doesn’t it?

If you remember last episode at all—don’t feel bad if you don’t, I had to go back and look because I had absolutely no idea—you’ll recall I talked about being ingredient conscious, which was essentially just me learning to better utilize leftover ingredients rather than letting them go to waste. Going back and reading it, I was a little disappointed in myself for not including some actual recipes I was using. So in the hopes of making up for that, I’ve brought some today!

In these last few months, I again noticed that my pantry and refrigerator were starting to pile up with ingredients that weren’t being used and were just sitting there taking up space. Eventually I got tired of looking at them and I went on a mission to start using them all.

Here are some recipes I found to help:

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Leftover Ingredient: Bananas

Recipe: Banana Bread

Have you ever bought bananas, brought them home, eaten 1 or 2 and then totally forgotten about them until they are brown and gross? Yeah, that’s me almost 100% of the time I buy bananas. Luckily, banana bread thrives on overripe bananas, and acts as a haven for your forgetfulness. I came across this recipe about a month ago when I was on the verge of throwing my bananas away, and it was so delicious, I will never again commit such a crime! (Find the recipe here!)

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HT_Chrissy_Teigen5_cf_160226_4x3t_384Leftover Ingredient: Sweet Potatoes

Recipe: Sweet Potato Gnocchi

I also happen to be guilty of buying sweet potatoes and forgetting about them until they’ve grown vines and look more like a monster than a food. In my last post, I talked about using sweet potatoes in an omelet, which was great, but this recipe from Chrissy Teigen’s cookbook is to die for. (Find the recipe here, find her cookbook here)

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Leftover Ingredient: Brown Rice & Frozen Veggies

Recipe: Rice Bowls

Whenever I go grocery shopping I like to buy brown rice and frozen vegetables in bulk, figuring the combination of the two is always an easy and healthy option. The only problem is, after a while rice and vegetables can get a little bland. An easy solution I’ve found for this however, is to:

a) Get more creative with my rice bowls, for example, you can check out a bunch of recipes here and here.

b) Add more flavor to my rice bowls. Growing up I was never much of a spice person. I’ve always been super sensitive to spicy foods and as a result tend to shy away from almost all spices. Recently however, I’ve been trying to ease in different herbs and spices to—wait for it—spice up my life a little bit, and let me tell you, it’s been life changing! (Check out this article for 15 easy ways to spice up brown rice) 

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p_R103186Leftover Ingredient: Cannellini Beans

Recipe: White Bean & Tuna Wraps

When I was working my way through Kayla Itsines’ book in the first episode, I bought a couple cans of cannellini beans for one recipe or another but then completely forgot about them. As a result, they were sitting in my pantry for months! My biggest issue with finding a recipe home for these guys was that I wasn’t exactly sure what they were or what they tasted like, and oftentimes when I’m making dinner, I’m too hungry or lazy to do that kind of research. But in the spirit of cleaning out my pantry, I finally took the 2 minutes to google “cannellini bean recipes” and I came across this bad boy. Honestly, I’m mad it took me this long to find it. (Find the recipe here)

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Over the next month or two I’m hoping to dive into another cookbook and find some new recipes to learn. If I were to sum up what I’ve learned so far in only two words, I’d say, who knew?! because it seems like the farther I go into this journey, the more I’m finding that is always something else to know.

July/August 2016 Favorites

So remember that blog I posted a couple months ago about a few of my favorite things for the entire first half of 2016, the title of which—2016 Favorites (So Far)—suggested that I might post a “part 2” at the end of 2016? Well I’m finding that impossible.

You see, posting that blog seems to have opened up some sort of sharing door (sharing window?) (sharing sun roof?) that my body refuses to shut and I constantly find myself wanting to talk about how great things are! Which, seeing how easy it would be to discuss how much things suck, I feel as though doing the latter is a far better use of my time. Thus, behold a second—and let’s be honest, nowhere near the last—edition of Favorites.

 

Cooking!

I know, I’m as surprised as you are. But after months of buying random ingredient-ish things from the grocery store and being consistently disappointed they didn’t conjugate in the pantry to form a heart healthy, hip friendly and Heaven flavored meal, I decided it was time to change my methods. So last month, after my sister and I got back from our vacation in Ireland and were looking for a way to shift our diet away from beer and café pastries, we started scouring cookbooks and Pinterest for relatively easy-to-make and cheap-to-buy-for recipes and made grocery lists.

Yes. Actual lists. Like adults with their shit together type of lists. It was magical.

Here are a few of my favorite recipes that I followed. All of which were delicious and none of which required a degree in Culinary Latin to decipher the instructions or a black belt in Kitchen Jiu Jitsu to put together.

(All images property of the brilliant recipe creators themselves)

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The Fundamentals of Caring

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I had heard very little about this movie before watching it, not reviews from the critics, not gif filled articles on the Internet, nothing. All I knew was that it was on the front page of Netflix and starred a few people I admired (Paul Rudd & Selena Gomez). That being said, I absolutely LOVED this movie with my whole heart. It made me feel all the feels. All of them. And after it was over I immediately wanted to watch it again, which I did. There’s really not much else I can say except stop whatever you are doing, no matter how time sensitive or crucial to the survival of mankind and watch this movie because it’s great. (Find it here)


 

Stranger Things

Staying on the topic of Netflix for a minute, I give you Stranger Things, the object of my obsession for the last few weeks. There is no way for me to describe to you what this show is about, as the plot is so twisted and incredible that attempting to do so would ruin it. So just take my word on this and watch it because it BLEW. MY. MIND. (Find it here)

Also, for any of you that have already seen it, I give you this meme:

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#ElevenWillAlwaysBeMyWomanCrushWednesday


 

Bitmojis

Meet Kimoji, the bitmoji version of me:

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She laughs,

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She cries,

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She surfs,

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She poses for the cover of People magazine.

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She does it all. Including most of the talking in my text message conversations. Earlier this month, my entire family made a ‘moji and since then we rarely have a discussion without one of them making an appearance. It’s glorious. You have no idea how much time we’re saving by using our Bitmojis to express emotions that would have otherwise required minutes of thumbwork. Honestly I would go on record to say that Bitmojis are probably saving us from carpal tunnel. (Find the app here)


 

The Olympics

I mean, how could they not be? They are arguably (though whoever wants to actually argue with me will undoubtedly lose) the greatest thing you could ever watch on television and on August 5th they finally arrived! It could never be overstated how much my family and I love the Olympics, and if you need any proof, refer to our DVR that is probably about as tired as a toddler without a nap. We spent an insane amount of hours absorbing every minute of every sport we could feast our eyes on, and expended buckets of energy screaming at the competing athletes, even though we were well aware they couldn’t hear us. And while I’m incredibly bummed they are already over, it’s important to focus on the positives…ONLY 526 DAYS UNTIL THE 2018 WINTER OLYMPICS!

Alright that’s it from me (for now). Have anything you’ve been loving lately? Let me know! My Amazon cart is always open…

See the previous favorites post here.