Monthly Archives: July 2010

A Gluten-Free Food Blogger Brunch (and Basil Chicken Pesto Salad Puffs)

 

Yesterday, a group of Dallas-area food bloggers and friends got together for our first-ever gluten-free brunch, hosted by Amy at Simply Sugar and Gluten Free. It was an intimate party (there were five of us), and boy, was it a lovely meal, and an excellent opportunity to meet other gluten-free bloggers. Also attending the brunch was Amy of I Am A Celiac, Kerri of Food Sparks, and Katie, a gluten-free friend that does not blog (yet – we might convince her otherwise).

For those of us with dietary restrictions, sometimes pot lucks and meals at others’ houses can cause anxiety, (will I get sick?) or cause many of us to not eat at all. Not so at this brunch! What a delight to visit and everything is gluten-free! There was certainly an abundance of food.

Amy of Simply Sugar and Gluten Free made cucumber basil water (posted on her blog), which is the most amazing, refreshing drink I think I’ve had to date. Definitely seeing this served in the near future in my house. She also baked up a storm, making two varieties of scones, blueberry crumb bars, (which I loved – even took a few home!) and strawberry muffins.

Amy of I Am A Celiac brought deliciously savory gluten-free jalapeno sausage, black beans and roasted potatoes, and a baked good from the nearby gluten-free bakery (for the life of me, I can’t think of or find the name of the place!).

Katie brought a lovely fruit salad and deviled eggs (complete with homemade mayonnaise!), and Kerri brought fresh juices and some homemade jams – strawberry and raspberry chipotle.

And I brought these.

Basil chicken pesto salad puffs. I used my gluten-free, dairy-free pate a choux recipe, and filled the puffs with chicken salad. I wanted a fresh, unique chicken salad, and since my garden is currently overflowing with basil, I opted for pesto as a main component. I found that Alisa at Go Dairy Free had a dairy-free pesto recipe that was very easy to make. I followed this recipe, and boosted the flavors and complexity with the addition of sun-dried tomatoes, apples, walnuts, lemon, and a bit of dijon. I added mayonnaise, but not much – just enough to keep the salad moist and blend the flavors together. Stuffed into the puffs, this salad was bright, slightly sweet, and fresh.

It was most refreshing to enjoy time with fellow bloggers (and fellow gluten-free friends). Spending time with like minds who share the same passions rejuvenates the soul. I returned home with renewed energy and new ideas. We’ll have to get together again soon!

Basil Chicken Pesto Salad Puffs

2 T olive oil

2 lbs chicken breasts

Salt and pepper

1 recipe gluten-free, dairy-free cream puffs

1 recipe dairy-free basil pesto

1/2 c mayonnaise

1 1/2 t dijon mustard

1/3 c sundried tomatoes, chopped

1/4 c toasted walnuts, chopped

2 apples (I used Fuji, but I imagine Granny Smith would be even better), peeled and diced

1 lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large, heavy skillet to medium heat. Add olive oil and allow to heat until shimmering. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper and saute, 5-6 minutes per side, until golden brown and cooked through. (Work in batches if you need to) Remove and set aside. When all chicken is cooked, place in airtight container and chill in refrigerator overnight.

Prepare cream puffs as directed in recipe and allow to cool to room temperature.

Prepare pesto as directed in recipe.

Remove chicken from refrigerator and dice into 1/2 inch dice. Stir together pesto, mayonnaise, and dijon mustard. Toss apples in juice from the lemon. Combine diced chicken, pesto mixture, apples, sundried tomatoes, and walnuts in a large bowl and stir gently until evenly mixed. Season with salt and pepper.

Cut a small hole in the top of each cream puff. Gently spoon chicken salad into each cream puff, filling the entire inside cavity. Chill until ready to serve. (These can be refrigerated for a few hours, but the cream puff will become soft over time.)

Makes 15-18.

Tropical Traditions Giveaway – We Have A Winner!

We have a winner for the Tropical Traditions 32 oz jar of virgin coconut oil, chosen at random by random.org. The winner is commenter #17, or Andrea of Eli’s Lunch Box.

Congrats, Andrea!

Peach Macadamia Scones

We’ve been lucky - the kids have stayed at our house all week. Unfortunately, the news that they were going to stay was somewhat last minute, so I was unable to take a vacation all week to be with them. I did, however, manage to take Friday off. We’ve already made plans to go out to the nickel arcade near us in a bit (fun at a slightly cheaper rate!) and grab some pizza. Of course, no pizza for yours truly, but I’m not sad. Why?

Because I have scones.

I have not tried my hand at scones since going gluten-free. They’re not normally something that I crave – after all, Texas is not known for their scones (guess they don’t exactly go with barbeque, chicken fried steak, or Tex-Mex), and so I have never eaten them as a regular part of my diet. In addition, many of the scones I have tried in the past were dry. Blech. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s a dry baked good.

Not with these scones though - they are moist, tender, and subtly sweet. They’re satisfying – while I did eat two for breakfast this morning, I’m sure I’ll be good to go and won’t be hungry for hours. That’s the beauty of lower-carb baking and baking without grains or sugar. It seems that there’s so much less of a blood sugar spike (and resulting crash), so there’s no need for another snack in an hour. I still get my tasty baked goods, and there’s no overindulgence? Sounds like a win-win to me!

This recipe was inspired by an orange-apricot scone recipe from Elana Amsterdam’s cookbook (which I’ve mentioned before - I’m really digging cooking from her book the longer I own it!), but I had a surplus of local donut peaches, so I opted to include them. My only wish? That there was even more peach flavor in these babies. Next time, I might push how many peaches I can add to the batter without making it too wet. (any other thoughts on this?) Regardless, they were delicious. Scones are definitely going to become a regular in my breakfast routine.

And now, it’s off to the nickel arcade we go!

Peach Macadamia Scones (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Grain-Free, Soy-Free, Sugar-Free), adapted loosely from The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook by Elana Amsterdam

1 1/2 c blanched almond flour (I used Honeyville)

1/8 t salt

1/2 t baking soda

1/2 t ground cinnamon

pinch ground nutmeg

2 T virgin coconut oil

2 T agave nectar

2 large eggs, beaten

1/4 t almond extract

1 T lemon zest

1/2 c peeled and finely diced fresh peaches

1/4 c toasted and chopped macadamia nuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.

In a large bowl, combine the almond flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg. In a separate bowl, combine the coconut oil, agave nectar, eggs, extract and lemon zest. Add peaches and stir. Stir wet ingredients into the almond flour mixture and stir until thoroughly combined. Stir in macadamia nuts. Scoop 1/4 cup of the batter and shape into rounds on lined baking sheet, 2 inches apart.

Bake for 12-14 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the scones cool on baking sheets and serve.

Makes 8 scones.

 

Peanut Butter and Jelly Ice Cream (Dairy-Free and Vegan)

No joke. I did the unthinkable. Peanut butter and jelly ice cream. I put some of my favorite childfood flavors in another childhood favorite – ice cream. Only I made it friendly for my tummy – it’s dairy-free!

Of course, I can’t take full credit for this idea – Alisa at Go Dairy Free beat me to it. Her version looks delicious as well, but it calls for soymilk. I’m not a fan of soymilk, so I went with my good ol’ dairy-free ice cream standby – coconut milk. Coconut milk makes dairy-free and vegan ice creams rich and decadent. Knowing that I’d be adding a sugary jam to my ice cream, I also opted to use agave nectar instead of Alisa’s brown sugar to keep the glycemic load just a bit lower. (You could keep it totally sugar-free by using a sugar-free jam, or make your own, such as Ali does here or Denise does here.)

The result? Just as awesome as I’d dreamed. One thing I do like about making lower-sugar, dairy-free ice creams is that they tend to be rich. This one was no exception. This is a good thing in my mind. I can eat just a bit, and I’m satisfied. With commercial ice creams, I tend to have a bit of difficulty being happy with the recommended serving size, and my body starts that endless cycle of cravings that can drive a person mad. With these ice creams, there are no cravings, and I feel balanced and comfortable with having these treats in the house. All without sacrificing taste in the least!

It dawned on me just before I clicked “Publish” on this post – this will be my 200th post! Wow. It’s also been nearly 2 years that I’ve had this blog (July 28). So many things have happened, and so much has been shared on here. I’ve grown so much in my cooking expertise during that time, and I’ve gained so many friends and colleagues. Thank you to everyone that reads – you all mean so much!

Peanut Butter and Jelly Ice Cream (Dairy-Free), adapted from Go Dairy Free

1 15-oz can coconut milk, chilled in the refrigerator for a few hours

1/2 c creamy peanut butter (I used homemade)

slightly less than 1/2 c agave nectar

1 T vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

1/3 c jelly or jam (I used some raspberry preserves I found at the farmers’ market)

In a bowl, combine the coconut milk, peanut butter, agave nectar, vanilla extract, and salt. Whisk together until completely combined. Pour into the bowl of your ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer’s instructions. Pour into a freezable container and stir in the jelly. (I opted to not completely stir it in, so that there would be “streaks” of jam throughout.) Place in freezer until firm.

Enjoy! I would highly suggest making these cookies (with almond butter or peanut butter) and turning this into ice cream sandwiches – something I would have totally done myself, if the cookies hadn’t disappeared so quickly!

 

Spicy Kale Salad with Tomatoes and Chiles

In case you haven’t visited in a while, the Food Revolution is still going strong over at The W.H.O.L.E. Gang. Check it out, for today I am sharing a delicious kale salad, inspired by Noelle over at Opera Singer In The Kitchen, that requires no heating of your kitchen – a bonus during the hot days of summer! You can see the recipe here.

Kids in the Kitchen: Chicken Parmesan (Fresh Tomato-Carrot Sauce)

By the time it was Matt’s turn in the kitchen, he already had an idea of what to make. (He had the benefit of watching this new routine – visiting the farmers’ market for inspiration – with his siblings.) You see, a few weeks ago, I prepared chicken parmesan for dinner when Matt was over, following a recipe from The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook by Elana Amsterdam (also the famous Elana of Elana’s Pantry). I followed the recipe pretty closely, only substituting my own sauce for the sauce in the recipe. Matt must have liked it (we all did), since he requested to make it tonight, using fresh tomatoes from the market.

Of course, not only were the tomatoes from the market, so were the onions, garlic, and carrots. In fact, the sauce we made was nearly all local – the thyme, basil and parsley came from my garden. But the best part? Because each of those components were super-fresh and at their peak, the flavors were bright and bold. It’s amazing how nature just knows what tastes best – and if we take advantage, it’s almost like the hard part of cooking is done for us.

Of course, making a tomato sauce from scratch was a bit of work, although a good deal of the time spent simmering allowed for Matt and I to wander off to do other things for a while. It was definitely worth it – several of us might have been tempted to lick our plates clean. While my dish was more of a chicken “un-parmesan” (I sprinkled Daiya mozzarella-style shreds on my dish, which was mighty tasty and dairy-free), it was still definitely a dish worth repeating again!

Recipe for Chicken Parmesan can be found at The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook by Elana Amsterdam

Fresh Tomato-Carrot Sauce

4-5 large ripe tomatoes

2 T olive oil

1 medium sweet yellow onion, roughly chopped

1 c carrots, roughly chopped

3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

1/2 t thyme leaves, picked

1 T basil leaves

1 T flat-leaf parsley

1 t dried oregano

1 6 0z can tomato paste

4 anchovies

2 c chicken stock (I used homemade)

Salt to taste

Cut an “X” into the skin on the bottom of each tomato. Heat a medium saucepan full of water to boiling. Using a slotted spoon, lower each tomato into the water and allow to “boil” for 1 minute. Remove and allow to cool enough to touch. Peel the tomatoes and remove seeds. Tear into chunks and place in a bowl. Set aside.

Drain and wipe clean the medium saucepan. Add olive oil and heat to medium heat. Add onion and carrot and saute until carrot starts to soften, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and saute for another minute. Add thyme, basil, parsley, oregano, tomato paste, anchovies and chicken stock and stir. Bring to a boil and immediately reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes have broken down and the sauce has thickened.

Puree sauce either by using a stick/handheld blender, or by pureeing in batches in a blender. Taste and season with salt as needed. Serve with chicken parmesan alongside gluten-free pasta or rice.

Serves 4.

Flourless Almond Butter Cookies

In a continuation of this past Daring Cooks’ challenge, I decided to incorporate my homemade nut butters into several sweet recipes. One such recipe seemed only natural – a nut butter cookie! I saw a post for flourless peanut butter cookies over at Gluten Free Easily a while back, and so I decided to consult that recipe as a guideline. However, I had a good deal of almond butter left over, so I wanted to make almond butter cookies instead.

Of course, I could have simply substituted the almond butter for the peanut butter, and followed the rest of the recipe as is. But what fun is that? Instead, I looked for a more complex flavor. I sought to use a touch of almond extract to really bring out the flavor of the almonds, and I went for an even depper flavor in the sweetener. Instead of brown sugar, I used piloncillo. Piloncillo, also referred to as panela, is a common sweetener in Central and South America and is usually sold in a solid block (mine was shaped like a cone), and is essentially nothing more than cane juice that has been boiled down. (Indian jaggery is similar.) The flavor is somewhat similar to brown sugar, but has lovely notes of vanilla and molasses. Because it is in a solid block, I opted to grate the panela using a cheese grater.

The result? These cookies were soft, slightly chewy, and oh-so-delicious. The kids devoured the first batch I made – always a sign of a good cookie! I made another batch a few days later and gave them to my sister and brother-in-law to enjoy (along with a few meals). You see, they became parents to twin girls on July 6 - and as we all know, cookies are the last thing new parents have time to prepare (but are very much needed – at least, in my opinion!).

Flourless Almond Butter Cookies, adapted from Gluten Free Easily

1 c almond butter

1 c grated piloncillo (can substitute brown sugar or coconut sugar)

1 egg

1 t baking soda

1/2 t vanilla extract

1/2 t almond extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients together well. Grease or moisten hands slightly and form dough into 1-inch balls. Place balls on parchment-lined cookie sheet. (Don’t press these down) Bake 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown and cookies look “set”. (they won’t look done.) Allow the cookies to rest on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes. Remove carefully and allow to finish cooling on a rack.

Makes 2 – 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

Daring Cooks: Nut Butters (Chicken with Curried Almond Sauce)

This month’s Daring Cooks challenge was one I really could embrace – making and cooking with nut butters! The July 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Margie of More Please and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and use the nut butter in a recipe. Their sources include Better with Nut Butter by Cooking Light Magazine, Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds, and Food Network online.

I’ve made a nut butter once or twice before, but before this challenge, I never made much effort to make it a regular part of my routine. After this challenge, I am a changed woman. I was so happy with my nut butters (I made almond butter and peanut butter) that I not only made the required recipe for the challenge, but I also made cookies and even ice cream – both recipes I will share soon. Our daughter Brittany even made a special request for more peanut butter, saying that it was better than any of the store brands. Anytime the kids request homemade food over store-bought, that’s one for the “win” column!

I started with almond butter so that I could make one of the required recipes for the challenge – Chicken with Curried Almond Sauce. Instead of simply roasting almonds for 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven (as was suggested), I instead soaked the almonds overnight in a brine and then roasted in a 175 degree oven for nearly 24 hours. (This is the method used in Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon for crispy nuts. The soaking is supposed to make the nuts easier to digest. I found that this roasting method made some of the most flavorful nuts I’ve ever had.)

To make nut butter, regardless of the type of nut, the process is essentially the same. First, pour the nuts into a bowl of a food processor. Grind the nuts until they form a paste or a butter. At first it will turn powdery or grainy. Keep processing, and it will eventually form a ball and start to ”clump” to one side of the bowl. Then, as you continue processing, the nuts will finally start to release oils, and it will begin to really look like nut butter. (The total time required depends on the fat content of the nut you’re using. You have to be patient – stopping early will only result in grainy, not-quite-nut-butter.) If you’re using a “drier” nut, once it begins to turn into nut butter, you can thin it with a bit of neutral oil or an oil from the same type of nut (for example, peanut oil for peanut butter, almond oil for almond butter, etc. ). I used a bit of pecan oil in my nut butter, since I had it on hand. Use some restraint in adding oil though – you don’t want to end up with too much oil! Add a tiny bit at a time. Once this has been incorporated, then you can salt, if desired, and/or sweeten as desired, using a bit of sugar, honey, or agave nectar (what I used).

That’s it – you have nut butter! Of course, this would probably store best in the refrigerator and will likely need stirring before use. If you’re going to use it immediately for a recipe, then of course – get right to it!

This chicken recipe was delicious - something my husband and I both loved (and went back for seconds!). I followed the recipe pretty closely, only substituting olive oil for the butter, and using homemade cashew milk (I found a great recipe at Elana’s Pantry) instead of the milk. The sauce was so creamy, comforting, and satisfying. This will definitely be a repeat dish for us. I also loved that it was something I could make on a weeknight.

I’m so thankful for this challenge – I learned that it’s not hard at all to make nut butters. No more store-bought nut butters for us!

Chicken with Curried Almond Sauce, adapted from Food Network

Recipe notes: Substitute the protein of your choice for the chicken. This is a smooth sauce, so the onion is removed before serving. If you prefer, dice the onion and leave it in the sauce or substitute a bit of onion powder.

Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
4 (6 oz / 170 g) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs)
Salt to taste

Spice Blend:
1.5 tablespoons (20 ml) garam masala seasoning
1 teaspoon (5 ml) ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon (1 ml) black pepper

Sauce:
4 tablespoons (60 ml) butter (I used olive oil)
1 large onion, cut in half pole to pole
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (15-ounce/425 g) can tomato sauce
⅓ cup (80 ml) almond butter
⅓ cup (80 ml) milk (I used cashew milk)
½ to ¾ cup (120 to 180 ml) chicken broth or water, more as needed
1 cup (240 ml) frozen peas (optional)

Hot basmati rice for serving (I served with short-grain brown rice)
Chopped parsley (optional garnish)
Sliced almonds (optional garnish)

Directions:

  1. Cook the chicken. If desired, pound chicken to ¼ inch (6 mm) thickness to promote even cooking. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Heat 1 teaspoon (5 ml) olive oil a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the chicken; sauté 3 to 5 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Cook the chicken in 2 batches, adding more oil if needed for second batch. Dice chicken into bite-sized pieces; set aside on clean plate and keep warm.
  2. Prepare spice blend. Stir garam masala, ginger, cinnamon, and pepper together in a small bowl. Set aside.
  3. Melt the butter (or add the oil) in large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook gently for several minutes to infuse the butter with onion flavor. Keep the heat low to avoid burning the butter; a little color is fine. Add the spice blend and garlic and cook for 1 minute or till fragrant, stirring constantly. Add the tomato sauce, stir well, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Whisk in almond butter and milk (or cashew milk) until thoroughly combined with tomato sauce. The almond butter is thick so it takes a while to make a smooth sauce. Return to simmer. Add broth (or water) to sauce to reach desired consistency; return to simmer. Add more broth (or water) as needed to thin sauce as desired.
  4. Remove onion from sauce and discard. Stir frozen peas (if using) into sauce. Transfer sliced chicken to sauce. Simmer gently for a few minutes until peas and chicken are heated through.
  5. Serve chicken and sauce over rice. Garnish with chopped parsley and/or sliced almonds if desired.

Tropical Traditions Coconut Oil Giveaway!

Disclaimer: Tropical Traditions provided me with a free sample of this product to review, and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose. Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a product giveaway in return for the free product.

If you’ve been following along at all lately, you may have heard something about my decision to stop eating dairy products. It may or may not be forever, but for now, my body feels best without it. However, this doesn’t mean I’m giving up on baked goods and such! Many times, I want to modify a recipe that calls for butter, and shortening or canola oil just doesn’t seem right. This is when I love to use virgin coconut oil. It does have the flavor of coconut, but when you’re incorporating it into baked goods, the resulting flavor is not really coconut-y at all. I’ve used it successfully in muffins, cakes, cookies, and even brownies. I even cook with it in savory dishes, as long as I don’t turn the heat up too high. And in the winter, when my skin turns dry, it’s a good salve that really seems to help moisturize my skin.

So when Tropical Traditions contacted me regarding an opportunity to share coconut oil with my readers, I jumped at the chance. I am giving away a 32 oz. jar of virgin coconut oil. I’ve purchased from Tropical Traditions several times, and have always been more than satisfied with their products. They run a lot of special sales, which is great. What’s better – they even have a referral program so that you can earn free goodies just by referring a friend!

In order to sign up for this giveaway, simply leave me a comment below telling me what you would plan to bake or cook with your Tropical Traditions coconut oil.

Want more chances to win?  You can increase your chances by doing the following things:

1. Tweet about this giveaway, and leave me a comment telling me you did so.

2. Post an update on your Facebook page about this giveaway, and leave me a comment telling me you did so.

3. Post about this giveaway on your blog, linking back to this post, and leave me a comment telling me you did so.

I’m excited to hear about your recipe ideas! I’m always looking for ways to use it.

This giveaway will end on Friday, July 23, 2010. I will pick one winner at random.

Lamb Stuffed Eight-Ball Squash or Zucchini

 

I love stuffed vegetables. I think it’s because of the whole meal-in-one-package appeal. Or maybe it’s like a surprise is hiding inside an already delicious vegetable. Or maybe the real truth is that the flavors meld and do wonderful things in the oven, and the results are greater than the sum of their parts. Whatever the reason, I felt that it was worth turning the oven on in the middle of July so I could enjoy the lovely mix of fresh flavors in this dish.

We’ve been eating a lot of lamb again lately. In May, we purchased another whole, organically raised, grass-fed lamb from Good Earth Organic Farm. This has to be the best lamb my husband and I have ever tasted. I’m sorry to say that I have not really shared a lot of recipes that I’ve made with it. That’s not on purpose, I promise. There are just days when the camera doesn’t seem to make its way to a plate of food before the food is eaten at our house – especially when lamb chops are involved. And many times, I neglect to write down the recipe as I go. Before the chops are gone, though, I will promise you that I will share my no-fail way to make perfect lamb chops. It’s simple, easy, and delicious.

Anyway, today, we’re not talking about lamb chops. We’re talking about the ground lamb I used for the eight-ball zucchini found at the farmer’s market. I love to embrace the flavor of lamb by adding fresh, bright flavors – herbs work well here. I am growing lemon thyme in my garden this year, and it pairs beautifully with lamb. If you don’t have lemon thyme, regular thyme or rosemary also work well. I went with my instinct on the rest of the seasonings, feeling that a bit of Mediterranean flair would work in my favor. I incorporated za’atar (a spice blend of sumac and sesame seeds) and a touch of cinnamon. The result was bursting with flavor, and without the addition of cheese (a popular ingredient in many stuffed vegetables), it was light – perfect for a summer meal.

If you can’t find eight-ball squash, don’t despair. Making boats out of zucchini would work well, or you could also use bell peppers, or even tomatoes. When winter squashes start appearing in the coming months, I can imagine this stuffing in an acorn squash would also be amazing (that’s when fresh rosemary would really play well). Yum. I’m hungry again just talking about this!

Lamb-Stuffed Eight-Ball Squash

4 eight-ball squash

1 T olive oil

¼ c red onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tomato, chopped

½ t lemon thyme leaves

6 oz ground lamb

1/2 t za’atar

½ t ground cumin

1/8 t cinnamon

Pinch crushed red pepper

Salt and pepper to taste

1 c cooked brown rice

½ t lemon zest

1 T lemon juice

1 T parsley, chopped

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Cut the tops off of the squash and with a paring knife and/or a melon baller, scoop out the insides of the squash, leaving about ½ inch of flesh in tact. Chop the insides and set aside. Place the squash on a microwave safe dish and microwave for 4 minutes. Remove and place squash in a baking pan (I used an 8X8 inch glass baking dish). Season the insides with salt. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 1 minute. Add garlic and sauté for another minute. Add the tomato and chopped squash “insides” and sauté, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until tomatoes start to break down. Remove and set aside. Season the ground lamb with za’atar, ground cumin, cinnamon, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper. Wipe the skillet clean and add ground lamb. (if your lamb is really lean, you might need to add additional oil to the pan first.) Saute until meat is no longer pink. Add the sautéed vegetables and the rice to the pan and stir. Add lemon zest and juice. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Turn off the heat and stir in parsley.

Spoon the filling into the squash. Top with the squash “lids”, if desired. Place in oven and bake for 30 minutes or until squash is tender.

Serves 4.