Giving Thanks

Today is that one day of the year when you wake up at 7 a.m. to make a pie.

It’s the day when you set a timer at least 12 times so you don’t burn the bread. It consists of at least three separate moments when you think everything is going to go wrong. The kitchen is filled with smoke. You don’t know which wine is yours. A baby keeps on opening the oven, you’ve made way too much mashed potatoes and, woops, you’ve run out of plastic wrap and the aluminum foil is running low.

“Are we out of butter?!”

“The pie has to set for at least five hours!”

“Wait, you don’t have a potato masher?”

“WHO DRANK ALL THE WINE?!”

But then you set up the dining table with the special napkins your mom brought all the way from Hawaii and somehow the stuffed acorn squash is still warm, the pickled carrots didn’t come out too spicy (despite the jalapeños) and you’re eating just in time for the sun to dip below the San Francisco horizon.

And the Patriots are demolishing the Jets.

I’m thankful for it all.

Let’s start with the quinoa stuffing. It would’ve been vegan if not for my sautéing everything in butter. Lots and lots of butter.

A touch of cranberry sweetness and spritz of nutmeg.

While the quinoa is soaking up flavors like parsley and sage in a big ol’ pot, it’s time to half roast some acorn squash.

Roast them face-down in a shallow bath of vegetable broth. The meat will soak up the juice and get super soft and yummy.

Then you flip ’em over and roast them with the stuffing inside. I put more butter on top. It was a good idea.

And then I got to thinking about a serious pie.

Pie crust starts with butter and flour. And ends with sugar.

My brother said that for Thanksgiving, the house should have at least three pounds of butter. Good thing, because there were a few moments when we thought we were out. But we weren’t. There was so much butter. There’s still so much butter.

Boston doesn’t have Okinawan sweet potatoes. And in Berkeley, California, the grocery store calls them “Hawaiian.” I just call them delicious.

So. Purple.

The filling tastes like marshmallows. Not even joking. Be careful.

Oh. Let me talk about haupia for second. It’s a Hawaii staple. It’s coconut. Coconut jell-o. Coconut custard. It’s good. That’s all that matters. And it’s going on top of this pie.

Thanksgiving just got so real.

Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash.

2 cups quinoa, cooked with 2 cups water and 2 cups vegetable broth
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 cup dried cranberries, soaked in hot water and drained
2/3 cup carrot, chopped
1 1/2 cups mushrooms, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
4 acorn squash
1 cup vegetable stock
lots of butter

In a large and deep skillet, preferably a pot, sauté the onions and garlic in about 2 tablespoons of butter until just translucent – don’t let it brown. Add the carrots and mushrooms and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add the quinoa, cranberries, herbs, salt and pepper and cook for another 10 minutes, until the quinoa has absorbed all of the flavors.

Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Cut the acorn squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Lay them face down on a baking sheet and pour about 1 cup of vegetable broth so that the entire pan has a thin layer of stock. Roast uncovered for about 15 minutes. Pour out the vegetable stock (I’d save it for some soup later on) and flip over the squash. Stuff with the quinoa mixture and top with a thin slice of butter (told you there’s a lot of butter). Cover everything tightly with tin foil and throw into the oven for another 30 minutes, until the squash is fully cooked.

Makes 8 halves.

Okinawan Sweet Potato and Haupia Pie.

For the crust:
1/2 cup butter, cold and chopped into small squares
1 1/2 cups flour
1/8 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a food processor, chop the butter with the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Press into a 9-inch pie pan and bake for about 12 minutes, until just slightly browned. Set aside (you can even make this the night before you need it).

For the Okinawan sweet potato filling:
1 1/2 cups Okinawan sweet potatoes, boiled and whipped or mashed
6 tablespoons cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons evaporated milk
1 egg
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In an electric mixer, whip the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and mix until fully incorporated. Add half of the sweet potato and mix completely before adding the rest. Toss in the evaporated milk, vanilla extract and salt before whipping to a nice and creamy filling.

Smooth into crusted pie pan and bake for about 30 minutes.

Set aside and let cool completely before adding the haupia.

For the haupia:
1 can (13.5 ounces) full fat coconut milk
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1/4 cup corn starch
1/4 cup sugar

Whisk the dry ingredients in a small bowl before adding the water.

In a saucepan, heat up the coconut milk and slowly add the sugar mixture, continually whisking until it thickens into a custard-like consistency. Pour on top of the sweet potato layer (there should be about 1/2 inch of room) and smooth over with a spatula.

Let cool completely before covering with a plate or plastic wrap and chilling in the fridge. Let the haupia set for at least five hours before serving.

Makes enough for 12 slices. Surprisingly, there are leftovers.

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Warm Quinoa Salad with Roasted Asparagus

I make things up.

I add yeast when I probably shouldn’t. I put chocolate chips where they certainly don’t belong – like my mouth. In big handfuls.

I create smorgasbords when creative juices aren’t flowing after eight hours of nonstop thinking and my brain is a scrambled egg.

This is your brain on the 9-5 crunch.

Sometimes, and only on these lucky occasions, I manage to produce a healthy concoction with every major food group without once being tempted to sneak a bite of chocolate.

Butter not required.

Quinoa is a super grain. Riddled with protein and fiber, it’s a vegetarian’s dream. And a carnivore’s best friend.

Cooked like rice, two parts water to one part grains, quinoa is perfect for a quick and healthy snack in lieu of salty crackers or chips. Also, you can make crazy granola out of the stuff. On my to-make list. Frizzle.

Garlic is roasted with some asparagus at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for half an hour or until everything’s crispy, juicy, and full of incredible flavor.

I grew cilantro from seeds. They’ve taken months to finally produce tasty leaves. Worth the wait.

Hello quinoa, zucchini and black-eyed peas.

Everything gets tossed together and consumed hot or cold.

Warm Quinoa Salad with Roasted Asparagus.

Inspired by Sprouted Kitchen.

1 cup quinoa, cooked in 2 cups water
1/2 large zucchini, chopped
7 asparagus stalks
5-6 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
handful of mint
handful of cilantro
1/8 cup sun-dried tomatoes
2 teaspoons capers
15oz can blackeyed peas, rinsed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a bread pan, line the asparagus along the bottom and top with unpeeled garlic. Toss with salt, pepper and a splash of olive oil. Cover with aluminum foil and roast for about 30 minutes. Let cool before peeling the garlic and chopping the asparagus.

While the quinoa is cooking, place a heat-safe steamer above the pot and lightly steam the chopped zucchini.

Once both the quinoa and zucchini are done, add to the blackeyed peas in a large mixing bowl.

Mince the cilantro, mint, sun-dried tomatoes, capers and roasted garlic before adding to the quinoa mixture. Add the chopped asparagus and top with the olive oil and lemon juice. Toss until every ingredient is fully incorporated. Add salt and pepper as needed.

Makes about 5 cups of munchies (good for about three eaters).

Quinoa Risotto with Sweet Potato

I have the habit stomping my feet when a fiddle and mandolin player strut their stuff on a tiny black stage. I haven’t an ounce of embarrassment when I’m the only one clapping amidst a sea of 60-year-olds who remain glued to their seats even though the music begs for dancers.

I love me a good bluegrass show.

I also love me some protein-rich, cheesy globs of mmm, yum.

Sweet potatoes are cubed and par-boiled for about 3 minutes.

I’m also a sucker for sauteed onions. And more bluegrass shows. I might’ve bought tickets for another one in April, what?

Making risotto with quinoa minimizes guilt. It’s also much fluffier and lighter than its arborio rice counterpart, which is usually so dense that I’m done after four bites.

Instead of using heavy cream or exorbitant amounts of parmesan, I threw in about half a cup of coconut milk into the mix. Super amazing.

I mean, I still used a lot of parmesan. Because what’s risotto without parmesan? It’s not risotto.

Quinoa Risotto with Sweet Potato.

2 1/2 cups quinoa, dry
5 1/2 cups water
4 ounces coconut milk
1 chopped onion
4 large cloves (about 2 tablespoons) minced garlic
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground sage
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried basil

slices of lemon and lime to garnish

Bring about 5 cups of lightly salted water to a boil in a large pot. Add the sweet potato and boil for about 3 minutes (they should be al dente). Drain and set aside.

In a medium pot, bring the water, coconut milk and salt to a light simmer. This will be added by the spoonful to the quinoa.

In a large pot, heat the olive oil and add the chopped onion and sautee until it becomes soft and translucent. Add the garlic, herbs and dried quinoa and fry until the grains are lightly toasted, about 5 minutes.

Add about half of the simmering water-coconut-milk mixture and stir continuously. As soon as the liquid is just absorbed, add a ladle-full of additional water-coconut-milk and let it be completely absorbed before adding another ladle-full. Continue to do this until all of the liquid has been added.

As soon as the last of the liquid has been absorbed, add the grated parmesan and stir until melted.

Serve with lemon and lime.

Makes about a week’s worth of leftovers for a gourmet lunch.