How to Roast the Perfect Kabocha Squash

Confession time: I had no idea what a kabocha squash was until I started reading HLB blogs. I probably had eaten one in a curry at some point and never realized it.

I forgot how much I loved winter squash until this past year. I’ve always been a fan of summer squash – but winter squash? They were shaped funny and how the hell are you supposed to cut one open? Then everywhere I looked there was a kabocha squash recipe – kabocha donuts, kabocha soup, kabocha pancakes, roasted kabocha. I couldn’t escape it so I had to find one to see what the buzz was about.

I finally found one little kabocha at Whole Foods in September. My first attempt at roasting it turned into me nearly slicing my hand off trying to cut it open – then drizzling it with agave and cinnamon. I started picking at it straight from the oven – and I was hooked.

Then, in true Pittsburgh form, kabocha was no where to be found. Angela and I even went to City Market in Columbus trying to find them from the farmers, but no luck. I even Googled “where to buy kabocha squash in Pittsburgh” – nothing.  If you know me, you know I don’t give up that easily.

Finally, after four or five different desperate Google searches, a Yelp review popped up of a Japanese market in Squirrel Hill. “Only place to find kabocha squash, or Japanese squash” some helpful Yelp-er told me. That person is a saint. If I knew where they lived, I would send them an Edible Arrangement*.

I didn’t go to this particular market right away. I was afraid of being disappointed. One day, my friend Jamie followed me to the mall, and I noticed an “Oriental Market” in the North Hills. I immediately turned and was the only white girl in there. No one knew what I was doing. I did, though. I headed straight to the produce section, and low and behold, sweet, sweet kabochas, I snagged two huges ones and gifted one to Angela since she had never experienced the delight it had to offer.

Then a few months passed (okay, maybe a month) and I didn’t head back out that way. I suddenly decided to stop by the Japanese market in the aforementioned Yelp review. They had one little kabocha. I asked the shopkeeper if he had more. “How many do you want?” I told him all that he had. He brought me out a box of four kabocha squashes.

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Squash of my labor.

If there’s a run on kabocha squashes in Pittsburgh – I know why and I know who reads my blog in Pittsburgh and I’m going to be really pissed if I can’t find one. (Okay, I’ll help you out – the Korean market in Shadyside by the Laundromat also has them.)

Moral of the story: if you can’t find kabocha squash, head to an Asian grocer. They always come through.

How to Roast the Perfect Kabocha Squash

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Roast kabocha squash.

What you’ll need:
Kabocha squash
Coconut oil, either melted or spray (don’t get on me, I don’t care, it’s from TJ’s and the only ingredient is coconut oil so I’m assuming it’s more or less totally natural)
Cinnamon 

What to do:
Preheat oven to 425 F.
Wash squash thoroughly because you can, and should, eat the skin.

Put squash in microwave on high for 3 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes.
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with coconut oil.
Cut squash in half and scoop out the strings and seeds.
Once squash is cleaned out, cut in strips or wedges (I prefer strips).

Line on baking sheet and spray lightly with coconut oil.
Sprinkle cinnamon on squash.

Bake for 40 minutes, turning halfway through. Don’t be lazy – it seriously makes a difference. Kabocha squash is the one place I don’t get lazy.

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The stuff dreams are made of.

Chat with me:
What food do you love but you can’t find? Do you love kabocha squash? Has anyone ever sent you an Edible Arrangement? (I’ve never gotten one, if anyone would like to send me one please contact me for my info.)

*Edible Arrangements did not sponsor this post, but if they are reading this and would like to send me an Edible Arrangement to review, feel free.

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Salted Caramel Chia Pudding

Chia seeds are having a real moment. I personally love chia seeds, mainly because I have a fear of not getting enough omega-3s or fiber, and also a tablespoon of them can turn 1/2 cup of oatmeal into like 3 cups of oatmeal if you do it right. (Okay, maybe 2. Just add double the water). If you want to learn more about chia seeds (and seeds in general), Davida at The Healthy Maven had a great round-up of all thing seed.

Yes, if you live under the superfood rock, chia seeds are what makes chia pets. Also most things you should eat are plants so I don’t know why that scares you. Chia seeds also make pudding, without all the milk and sugar and crap JELL-O sticks in theirs (sorry, Bill Cosby). I’ve been seeing chia pudding everywhere and started craving it. I had a failed pumpkin chia pudding recipe… and then decided I wanted salted caramel pudding. I’ve been craving caramel pudding since I saw it on a post on Running with Spoons, but unfortunately caramel pudding does not exist in the US (or at least not in the greater Pittsburgh metro area grocery stores).

Even though this recipe looks time intensive, it seriously takes five minutes total. It’s kind of an overnight plus the whole next day sitting around waiting time, so start it before you go to bed (soaking the dates and almonds) then blend it all before you go to work/school/have a fulfilling life that doesn’t involve either of those (and then I’m extra jealous of your life and the fact you will be enjoying this delicious chia pudding). Make it for your next dinner party because it’s vegan, gluten free, paleo, raw – whatever, everyone can eat it unless they’re allergic to almonds.

Salted Caramel Chia Pudding
Serves Four

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Topped with a little cocoa powder because life is short.

What you’ll need:
1 cup almond milk, separated into 1/2
1/4 cup raw almonds
1/4 cup dates, pitted
3 tbsp chia seeds
1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp pink Himalayan sea salt (or normal sea salt)

What to do:
Put almonds and dates in a small container and cover with water. Let sit overnight.
The next morning, drain water from almonds and dates.
Put almonds, dates, 1/2 cup almond milk and lemon juice into blender or food processor and combine until a liquid and no small parts remain.
Put chia seeds in a container. Poor almond-date-almond milk mixture over chia seeds. Add remaining 1/2 cup almond milk. Cover and shake to combine.
Let mixture sit at least 4 hours, or until chia seeds absorb all the liquid.
Top pudding with sea salt and enjoy.

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Eat it by itself or use on oatmeal, yogurt, fruit or squash.

Salted Caramel Chia Pudding Nutrition Facts

Chat with me:
What’s your favorite superfood? How do you like to eat it?

Please, Eat a D**n Salad (and Giveaway Winners!)

First off, I wasn’t even going to post today but it’s Angela‘s birthday so basically this post is homage to her. If I had never met Angela, this blog wouldn’t be in existence because she gave me the courage to start my blog and write about things I wanted to write about, not what I thought I should write about (hence why I never post about clothes anymore – I do that enough at work!). Ang, thanks for making me a better person you beautiful girl, you.

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Look at those tans!

Back on track: If you know me, or even know of me, as a person, you should know that I love green things. And by green things I mean vegetables. I truly, truly haven’t met a vegetable that I haven’t liked (other than white potatoes, ew). I know it’s probably super obnoxious to people who can go days without consuming a vegetable, but I honestly just like them. A lot. I grew up eating a ton of veggies, I dabbled in vegetarianism in high school and college – I’m that person who chooses what she’s eating based on sides rather than the main course.

I originally made what I lovingly referred to as a “basic b***h shamrock shake” (because come on, what food/healthy living/lifestyle blog/anything with print doesn’t have a shamrock shake redux somewhere in the past 16 days?) for Davida’s Green Food Link-Up but like, I couldn’t be that girl (sorry if you were that girl). Then I made my mint chocolate chip overnight oats and my life was basically changed.

Today, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I wanted to showcase some green recipes I’ve either tried and loved or want to try because I think I’ll love them. In my honor today, I’m asking you to eat a salad, and if not a salad, please just eat something green that is natural and not from food dye. I swear it won’t kill you.

 

Oh, and without further ado… here are some people who #gotlucky thanks to random.org number selection! If you won, please e-mail me your full name and mailing address to cpisone@gmail.com!

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Chat with me:
What did you do for St. Patrick’s Day this year? What is your favorite green food?

Coconut Blueberry Quinoa Pancakes

I had been craving two different breakfast foods – quinoa pancakes (which I had never had before but I often find myself craving foods I’ve never tried) and coconut blueberry waffles (alternatively, which I had never had). Luckily, President’s Day gave me a chance to create the breakfast food of my dreams since Saturday and Sunday breakfasts had been oatmeal (since I assumed I was doing a long run on Saturday then truly did a long run on Sunday).

Coconut Blueberry Quinoa Pancakes

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I was starving but managed these epic photos.

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The quintessential pancake shot.

What you’ll need:
½ cup cooked quinoa
¼ cup egg whites
¼ cup coconut milk
¼ cup fresh blueberries
1 tbsp coconut flour
1 tbsp shredded coconut
1 tsp vanilla
¼ tsp baking powder

Optional Toppings:
Coconut butter
Almond butter
Greek yogurt
Fresh blueberries

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Use the coconut butter. Trust me.

What to do:
Heat skillet on medium heat and spray with coconut oil (or whatever you use as a non-stick spray).
Mix quinoa, coconut milk and egg whites in a bowl.
Add coconut flour, shredded coconut, vanilla and baking powder and mix well. Coconut flour has a habit of sticking together – be sure to mix all of it out.
Fold in blueberries
Pour pancake batter onto heated skittle and let cook 2-3 minutes until bottom browns and is able to flip.

Flip pancake and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
Top with whatever makes your heart flutter and enjoy.

Coconut Blueberry Quinoa Pancake Nutrition Facts

Chat with me:
Do you crave foods you’ve never had? What are you currently craving?

Bloody Mary Mussels

My dad could not stop talking about making mussels and more so, these Bloody Mary mussels he had at some brewery near Slippery Rock. On Valentine’s Day I was driving home from work, contemplating what I was going to eat for lunch because of course that was dependent on what I was eating for dinner, and called my dad to suggest we make mussels for dinner and be single together. So that’s what we did.

I had to think about what all types of things go into Bloody Marys to think about what should go into these little guys. My dad swears by Clamato juice but since they were already fishy (I think?) I decided to just use tomato juice. My dad also suggested Worchester sauce and horseradish because I totally would have forgotten about those. I was thinking garlic, Tabasco, celery, sea salt – all of the delicious accompaniments.

A quick Tabasco story because I know you all really want to hear it. When I was in Hong Kong and seriously jonesing for Mexican food, I would throw down approximately $30 USD for a burrito. Yeah, Hong Kong is expensive, but once you’re outside the US, Mexican food is few and far between. I didn’t have a kitchen. I had to go to extreme measures.

Anyway, back to the Tabasco. So we were at whatever the Hong Kong crappy equivalent of Mad Mex was (I seriously think it was Mad Mexican because a waiter gave me a sombrero one night when I was drunk and it said Mad Mexican or something on it. See photo below for reference) and we ordered margs (duh) and they were INSANELY sweet. Like way to sweet. So we poured Tabasco in them because what else are you going to do whenever you need a buzz to forget about the amount of money you’re paying for a burrito.

mexican food hong kong | almost getting it together

Said stolen somber – it says “Mexican with Attitude”

So these mussels were gone in like 5 minutes. They were delicious and super easy. Mussels seem scary to cook but they aren’t. Unless you’re allergic to shellfish and then they are scary because you’ll die.

Bloody Mary Mussels

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Mussels – insanely easy to cook.

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Parsley food styling by Dad.

What you’ll need:
1 lb mussels, debearded and rinsed in cold water
1 lemon, juiced
1 2/3 cups tomato juice (PURE tomato juice, not crap from concentrate with sugar added or something)
2/3 cup chopped celery
1/3 cup chopped parsley (I used flat leaf)
3 tbsp fresh horseradish
2 tbsp crushed garlic
2 tbsp worchester sauce
2 tbsp hot sauce (Tabasco but it has added sugar so I used Pepito – we had a Choloua incident walking in the door so I wasn’t about to use the last of my precious Choloua)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp celery salt (or whatever salt you have, but try for celery salt)

What to do:
Mix everything but mussels, garlic and olive oil together and set aside.
Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven (or large sauté pan – anything large enough so the mussels can all be beside each other without being on top of each other) over medium high heat.
Add in garlic and stir until fragrant, about one minute.
Add mussels to pan. Put lid on top and allow to cook for 3-4 minutes.
Check mussels after 3-4 minutes. If they are mostly closed, continue cooking for another 3-4 minutes, checking every minute to see if they are opened.
Once they are all (or mostly) opened, add in sauce and stir well. Re-cover pan and allow to cook for another 1-2 minutes.
MUSSELS ARE DONE! See, that wasn’t too scary, right? Enjoy your mussels as long as they are open. If they’re closed don’t eat them you’ll die.

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These were devoured in less than 5 minutes.

Chat with me:
Is my writing on point today or what? And by point I mean ADD. Also – what is the most money you would ever pay for a burrito?

The Best Ten Minute Gluten Free Pizza Crust

As I try to remember the day I was hardcore craving pizza after a long run, I can’t exactly remember which day it was. (Note: went into iPhoto see what day these photos were taken.) Turns out it wasn’t a long run day at all, but simply just a day of spin class, hanging out with my friend Paige and going to Lululemon. Anyway, I was starving, craving pizza and it was a 21 Day Sugar Detox day. I was craving pizza before 21DSD so it was dumb of me not to eat the real stuff beforehand.

Anyway, as a fan of the microwave muffin/microwave cake, I realized I could probably make a pizza crust pretty easily with eggs, coconut flour and some deadly infrared flight from the Science Box (if you haven’t seen American Hustle do yourself a favor and see it so you get the reference).

What are the key pillars of pizza crust? In my world, it’s flour, yeast, water, olive oil and eggs. Sub out a grain-free flour and baking powder for yeast and you probably have a decent pizza crust. Plus the crust is just a vessel for toppings. These pictures aren’t from the recipe I perfected though, I’m not going to lie. I made a better non-paleo crust that tasted better but looked the same so I don’t feel like I’m tricking you.

This is super easy to make. It seems scary but it isn’t. Also this pizza was delicious and tasted like normal pizza so I didn’t feel terrible after eating it nor did I feel deprived.

The Best Ten Minute Gluten Free Pizza

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This pizza will be ready before you have time to call the delivery guy.

What you’ll need:
2 tbsp chickpea flour (or coconut flour if paleo)
1 1/2 tbsp gluten free flour (or almond meal if paleo)
1 tbsp almond meal
1 egg
1 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp baking powder
pinch of Himalyan pink sea salt (or non-fancy, non-pH balancing salt)

Optional toppings
Pizza sauce
Cheese
Veggies
Protein (chicken, prosciutto, pepperoni, etc.)

ten minute gluten free pizza | almost getting it together

Remember on The Office when Michael Scott held the pizza delivery kid hostage?

What to do:
Preheat oven to 450F.
Mix all your ingredients in a small bowl.
Rub a very light layer of olive oil on a round plate. (Or spray with non-stick cooking spray)
Pour mixture on plate and microwave for 2 1/2 minutes.
Take crust out of microwave and let cool for a few minutes.
Place cooled crust on pizza stone and top however you like.
Bake for 7-8 minutes until your crust browns and your cheese is melty and delicious.

 ten minute gluten free pizza | almost getting it together

Pizza with red sauce, mushrooms, spinach and onion topped with mozzarella cheese and crushed red pepper flakes.

Gluten Free Pizza Crust Nutrition Facts
(LOOK HOW HIGH IN PROTEIN & FIBER THIS IS! If you’re worried about the cholesterol, I took the egg out of the nutrition info out of curiosity and the cholesterol went down to 0… and we all know eggs have cholesterol so let’s settle down.)

Chat with me:
What are your favorite pizza toppings? Did you see American Hustle?

Two Bite Gluten Free, Sugar Free Paleo Brownies

I used to be afraid of beets. Isn’t that weird? They are so delicious! Something about them – I thought they would taste “earthy”. I love greens and veggies and green juice, don’t get me wrong – but root vegetables freak me out a little because I’m afraid of them tasting like dirt. I must have had a bad beet experience once.

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Get ready to turn the beet up.

gluten free brownies paleo brownies sugar free brownies nutrition facts | almost getting it together

Themed photo styling, what up?

I’ve always seen baked good recipes calling for beets, so I decided it was finally my time to take the plunge. Also red things are perfect for Valentine’s Day… except the cocoa powder kind of kills the red vibe and they’re just normal brown brownies.

Disclaimer: These brownies are a little bittersweet because there isn’t any sugar. I thought they were amazing, but my taste-tester [my dad] thought they were “different”. He is also used to sugar and I am used to the lack thereof. If you want a sweeter brownie, sub out some of the almond butter for maple syrup – a 1:1 tbsp ratio should do the trick.

Two Bite Gluten Free, Sugar Free Paleo Brownies

gluten free brownies paleo brownies sugar free brownies  nutrition facts | almost getting it together

The sweetest little sugar-free Valentine’s Day treat.

What you’ll need:
1 banana
1/2 cup beets
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup almond butter
1/3 cup coconut milk
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda

What to do:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Put banana, beets and almond butter into food processor Vitamix and blend until smooth. Don’t be afraid to give the cute pink puree a taste test if you’re scared. I did.
Add the rest of your ingredients and continue blending until smooth.
Spray a mini-muffin pan with coconut oil (or whatever you use to grease pans with).
Fill muffin tins two-thirds full with batter.
Bake for 8-10 minutes.
Impress everyone with your super healthy treats!

gluten free brownies paleo brownies sugar free brownies  nutrition facts | almost getting it together

Please, have four of my brownies for the caloric content of two pre-packaged ones.

Note: WATCH THESE GUYS CLOSELY. You really are only baking them to form them, there’s not anything in them that isn’t safe to eat raw (not that I’m one to talk, but if you’re paranoid of that kind of thing good for you). Test their done-ness (is that a word?) by poking carefully with a toothpick or fork. It should come out a little moist. (Sorry for that word usage!)

Two Bite Gluten Free, Sugar Free Paleo Brownie Nutrition Facts

Chat with me:
Are you a Valentine’s Day lover or hater? What’s your most memorable Valentine’s Day?