Wednesday, November 24, 2010

For The Vegetarian Conscious

Yay for Thanksgiving! Possibly my very favorite holiday! With the exception of having to juggle the families around and make time for everyone, I just love a day that's completely dedicated to eating food and being grateful for it! And this year is especially exciting, because for the first time in my married life, I am not working a second job in retail that demands I be working on Black Friday. Ahhhhh. I am so excited to simply get to sleep in, decorate the house for Christmas and cook. (Alex is going to brave the crowds for a quick trip to Guitar Center.)

Due to Alex's bizarre poultry allergy (I promise you I did not make that up! He really has a dangerous allergy to poultry!), we don't eat turkey on Thanksgiving day. We usually make do with a beef roast or a ham. I'm not really a big fan of the food that we consume from the in-laws (shh! Don't tell!) because Grandma usually shops at restaurant supply grocery stores which are laden with heavy preservatives and who knows what else, but I am looking forward to spending time with the family. My mom, who swore up and down that she was NOT cooking this year, had her plans changed and will be providing food for friends from church, as well as her three daughters and their significant others.

I came across this recipe in the October issue of Vegetarian Times, which I read for good ideas about ways to prepare veggie dishes that don't fall into the category of steamed, frozen vegetables overly seasoned with salt. (We come from a farmin' community. There has never been a lot of creativity when it comes to how to prepare vegetables and our family traditions.) I love winter squash and I love soup. What a perfect dish! The filling can be made up to 2 days ahead of time and then baked in acorn squash shells before serving.

South American Squash and Vegetable Ragout

6 dried pitted apricots
4 dried pitted prunes
6 small acorn or other winter squash that is round and can double as a bowl to hold the stew
1 tbsp. olive oil plus more to coat the squash
1 small Spanish onion (1 cup)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 small red bell pepper, diced (1 cup)
1 14.5-oz. can whole tomatoes, coarsely chopped, juices reserved
1 small Yukon gold potato, peeled and diced (1 cup)
1 small sweet potato, peel and diced (1 cup)
1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 15-oz. can kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1. Place apricots and prunes in bowl, and cover with 1 cup boiling water. Soak 2 hours, drain and coarsely chop fruit, reserving liquid.

2. Preheat over to 350 degrees F. Coat baking sheet with cooking spray. Cut circular opening in squash tops, and reserve tops. Cut small slices off bottoms of squash so they stand up straight. Scoop out and discard seeds and fiber from squash. (Or save them to throw out in the garden for MORE acorn squash next season!) Rub outside of squash shells and lids with oil, and place on prepared baking sheet.

3 Heat 1 tbsp. oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and oregano; saute' 2 to 3 minutes. Add bell pepper and tomatoes and juice; cook 2 to 3 minutes. Add potato, sweet potato, and reserve apricot-prune soaking liquid, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer 15-20 minutes or until potatoes are almost soft. Add corn and apricot-prune mixture, and simmer 2 to 3 more minutes. Add beans and season with salt and pepper if desired. Simmer 5 more minutes.

4. Ladle soup into each hollowed squash; place lid on top. Bake 60 to 90 minutes or until a fork can easily pierce through the squash. Serve immediately and enjoy! It will warm you through on the coldest of days!

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