Oven-Roasted Butternut Squash Sauce

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Call me a basic betch, but I love the fall – I always have and I always will. I truly enjoy all of the things that people have begun to make a mockery out of: layering clothes and cozy sweaters; crisp air and leaves changing colors; and most of all, the warm and hearty flavors of fall food and beverage. Yes, even those of a pumpkin spice latte.

All jokes aside, this time of year likely has an extra special place in my heart thanks to my Halloween birthday. Growing up, my parents always threw me a killer (eh, no pun intended) costume party that I looked forward to every single year. Quite simply, the fall evokes some of my happiest memories, and being so, I absolutely love it. Ain’t no shame in that.

Anyway, the official first day of autumn prompted me to make my first fall-inspired dish of the year. Something with pumpkin seemed a little too cliche, so I opted for butternut squash instead. (That was a joke, people.) I was craving ravioli for whatever reason, so as I pondered exactly how I could turn a pasta dish into one that also incorporates the fall-friendly flavors of squash, an oven-roasted butternut squash sauce topped with pine nuts and fresh basil came to mind.

Given that I oven-roasted that baby in a maple syrup and brown sugar butter, you better believe that it was divine. Rest assured, I made up for my use of butter by also using healthy ingredients like Greek yogurt, extra virgin olive oil, and almond milk. The end result was quite magical: think sweet and savory enhanced with herbs and spices like oregano, rosemary, thyme, basil, and cayenne pepper. Also, while I opted for this sauce to be paired with basil and goat cheese ravioli from Whole Foods (ah-mazing and highly recommended), it would also taste fabulous with gnocchi or linguini.

Note: this recipe yields four servings.

What you’ll need:

  • A 2 to 2 1/2 lb. butternut squash
  • 1/2 a stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp. pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 a sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup EVOO
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • Cracked black pepper and Himalayan salt to taste
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • The fresh pasta of your choice
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 4 sprigs of fresh basil for garnish

What you’ll do:

  • Preheat the oven to 400°F; meanwhile, cut a butternut squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds; place onto a baking dish, flesh side up
  • Combine the melted butter, maple syrup, and brown sugar in a small mixing bowl; brush a generous amount of the butter mixture onto the flesh of the squash and pour the remaining mixture into the middle of the squash; roast in the oven for 30 minutes
  • When 30 minutes have elapsed, remove the squash from the oven and allow to cool for about 15 minutes; when 15 minutes have elapsed, pour the remaining butter mixture into a blender; then, remove the skin of the squash with a paring knife, discard, and cut the remaining squash into moderate-sized cubes; place the cubes into a blender, along with the onion, garlic, and Greek yogurt; blend until smooth
  • Pour the squash mixture into a large frying pan; stir in the EVOO, almond milk, herbs (minus the fresh basil), and spices; cook over low heat for 5 minutes; then, stir in the fresh basil and cook for an additional 3 minutes
  • For each serving: pour 1 cup of sauce over the pasta, and garnish with 1 tbsp. pine nuts, a sprig of fresh basil, and cracked black pepper

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Bootie-ful

While I’m extremely picky about tall boots, I’ve had no trouble finding booties that I adore. Booties are great because they can instantly elevate an otherwise casual outfit. I’m absolutely head-over-heels with fall fashion, and booties are a huge reason for that. As you can see, I love booties in all shapes, sizes, and colors, but I’m particularly loving the stacked-heel look this season. Because there are so many booties, so little time, I’ve purposely narrowed down my favorites to budget-friendly options under $150. Decisions, decisions…

P.s. My search for the ultimate bootie lead me to discover Crown Vintage, which is DSW’s exclusive brand that is super affordable without compromising quality. Be sure to check out more from this product line because it’s to die for!

1. Crown Vintage – Wilton // 2. Sam Edelman – Petty // 3. Clarks – Spye Celeste // 4. TOMS – Desert // 5. BC Footwear – Best Dressed // 6. Chinese Laundry – Battle Field // 7. Splendid – Lakotas // 8. Very Volatile – Whitby // 9. Steve Madden – Plover // 10. Chinese Laundry – Zane // 11. Sperry Top Sider – Harlow // 12. Clarks – Mission Halle

Mission Fig and Brie Crostini with Garden Basil and Wildflower Honey

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Prior to the Lorde concert two Fridays ago, my friend Jill came down to the city for a girls’ day. Knowing that she’d appreciate a lunch by yours truly, I cooked up some delicious crostini and threw together a light salad upon her arrival. I love it when I get to cook for people who appreciate quality ingredients, and Jill is certainly one of those people.

Anyway, being that figs are in their peak season right now, I wanted to make sure that I do something creative with them before fig season is over. The obvious option seemed like in the form of crostini. While I love nearly all varieties of cheese, I tend to use goat and mozzarella most frequently, so I purposely chose Brie for something different. The combination of the two, along with the basil and honey, made for a sweet and savory app packed with both fresh flavors and a crunch. Four of my favorite qualities of food in one? I’ll take it!

Note: This recipe can easily be doubled, tripled, et cetera depending on how many people you plan on serving. Jill and I easily scarfed down five each! ;)

What you’ll need:

  • 1/2 a fresh baguette (country wheat from Whole Foods is where it’s at)
  • 1/2 cup grape seed oil
  • 1/2 lb. Brie, thinly sliced into 10 baguette-slice-sized pieces
  • 3-4 Mission figs, de-stemmed and thinly sliced
  • Wildflower honey to taste (or honey of your choice)
  • 6-8 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • Cracked black pepper to taste

What you’ll do:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 350°F
  • Meanwhile, slice the baguette into 10 pieces, making each piece about 3/4 an inch thick; for aesthetic purposes, be sure to cut on an angle; place the baguette slices onto a baking sheet and brush with a moderate about of grape seed oil
  • Next, place a piece of Brie on each baguette slice and bake in the oven for approximately 10 minutes, or until golden brown
  • When 10 minutes has elapsed, arrange the baguette slices on a serving dish and place two Mission fig slices onto each piece
  • On the entire dish: drizzle with honey, sprinkle with basil, and finish with cracked black pepper

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Vegetarian Indian Stew with Basmati Rice and Garlic Naan

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I’ve been wanting to make an Indian-inspired dish (obviously involving naan) since I started my blog back in March, yet being that Indian cuisine is so far outside of my comfort zone, I’ve clearly been putting off. However, my old roommate (old as in like, one week ago), Danielle, was headed to Italy for grad school and I wanted to cook up an old roomie/new roomie dinner before she departed. Given her vegetarian diet and love for Indian food, I figured this was the perfect opportunity to finally bring this idea to life.

Now, let me be honest: I was completely and utterly clueless regarding Indian spices, so I spent a lot of time researching them before I attempted this meal. I still have tons more to learn, but I’d say that this meal was a solid first attempt. Now that my pantry is stocked with Indian spices, I can’t wait to experiment some more. If you’re interested in learning more about Indian spices yourself, I found this guide to be extremely helpful.

Anyway, it goes without saying that it was so bittersweet saying goodbye to Danielle and her sweet dog, Minnie. I’ll miss all the memories her, Amanda, and I have made over the last year or so, but I’m ecstatic for her as she begins this exciting chapter. I can’t wait to stalk her Insta as she takes on Milano!

I’d also like to give a huge shout out to my new roommate (new as in like, one week ago), Domenica, for being the best sous chef in town!

Note: This recipe yields eight servings. I recommend getting started on both the rice and the stew while the dough for the naan rises.

PART 1: GARLIC NAAN

What you’ll need:

  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 tbsp. pure cane sugar
  • 2 tbsp. almond milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup salted butter, melted
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced

What you’ll do:

  • Combine yeast, warm water, and 1 tbsp. of sugar in a small bowl; stir and allow to sit for 10 minutes
  • In a large bowl, combine the remaining 1 tbsp. of sugar, almond milk, egg, salt, baking soda, 4 cups of flour, and yeast mixture
  • Knead the dough, using the remaining 1/2 cup flour, until it begins to form; once formed, place in well-oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and allow to rise for 1 hour
  • After an hour passes, pinch off small handfuls of dough, about the size of a baseball, and roll into balls; place each on a baking sheet until there is no more dough; place a damp cloth over the balls of dough and allow to rise for an additional 30 minutes
  • Meanwhile, combine the melted butter and minced garlic
  • Once the dough has been given additional time to rise, one ball of dough at a time, roll into a thin cirlce, place onto a large, lightly-sprayed frying pan, cover with a lid, and allow to cook for 2 minutes; then, on the non-cooked side, brush on the garlic butter, and flip over; cook an additional 2 minutes, covered
  • Repeat the previous step until every ball of dough is cooked

PART 2: BASMATI RICE

What you’ll need:

  • 3 cups dry Basmati rice
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 tsp. Kosher salt
  • A splash of grape seed oil

What you’ll do:

  • Rinse the rice thoroughly; then, soak it in plenty of water for at least 30 minutes; once soaking is complete, drain the water
  • Add the soaked rice, 6 cups of water, and a splash of grape seed oil to a large pot; bring to a boil, uncovered
  • Once the water begins to a boil, turn the heat down to its lowest setting, cover, and cook for an additional 10 minutes

PART 3: VEGETARIAN INDIAN STEW

What you’ll need:

  • 10 Roma tomatoes
  • 6 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 4 tsp. grated ginger
  • 1 medium-sized Vidalia onion, sliced
  • 2 red bell peppers, sliced
  • 1/4 cup grape seed oil
  • 4 tsp. ground tumeric
  • 2 tsp. garam masala
  • 2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • Cracked black pepper and Himalayan salt to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups whole-milk yogurt (not Greek)
  • 2 cups almond milk
  • 1/4 cup tapioca starch (or thickening agent of your choice)
  • 4 cups baby bella mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 8 sprigs of fresh cilantro for garnish

What you’ll do:

  • Bring a medium-sized pot of water to a boil; meanwhile, de-stem the tomatoes and slice an X onto their bottoms; place the tomatoes into the boiling water; meanwhile, fill a large mixing bowl with ice water; when the skins of the tomatoes begin to peel off, remove the tomatoes from the boiling water and transfer to the ice water; once cool, remove them from the ice water and peel the skins off, run six of the tomatoes through a food processor or blender to make a tomato puree; chop the remaining four and set aside
  • Then, over medium heat, sauté the garlic, ginger, onion, and red bell pepper in the grape seed oil; once the onion and pepper begin to soften, stir in the spices
  • Once the spices are thoroughly mixed in, add the tomato puree and cook until it comes to a boil; then, reduce the heat to its lowest setting and cook for an additional 10 minutes
  • Next, stir in the yogurt, almond milk, and starch; once the sauce begins to thicken, add the chopped tomatoes, mushrooms, lemon juice, and cilantro; stirring occasionally, simmer for an additional 30 minutes to allow the mushrooms to soften and the spices to blend
  • After 30 minutes has elapsed, plate each dish as pictured and be sure garnish with a sprig of fresh cilantro!

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Slow Cooker Tuscan Chicken

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I love making this chicken because it’s everything a slow cooker meal should be; although extremely simple to prepare, its end result is insanely flavorful food, so tender that it falls apart on your fork. Even better, this recipe yields enough chicken to last me about a week or so, and the ways in which I put it to use are endless. While it’s deee-lish on its own, I also use it on salads, in sandwiches, and for skinny chicken parm, to name a few options.

What you’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup EVOO
  • 1/2 a Vidalia onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • Cracked black pepper and Himalayan salt as desired
  • 2 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup fresh Italian (flat) parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

What you’ll do:

  • Combine the EVOO, onion, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in the bottom of your slow cooker; mix well
  • Place the chicken breasts on top of the concoction, and then cover the breasts with balsamic vinegar
  • Apply the lid and cook on low for 6 hours; about half way through, be a sure to flip the chicken breasts
  • With about 30 minutes left, sprinkle the fresh herbs on top

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