Monday, September 29, 2014

Spicy Squash Season Penne

Hey everyone! Fall is finally here, and this month, we've got lots of awesome fall recipes for you!

Okay, before I start, I have some HUGE NEWS! I was recently nominated for Best Food Blog in the Best of Western Washington (via KING5 News) competition, and I'm currently ranked in first place holding 15.6% of the vote! This is a huge honor for me, and I really want to win. How awesome would it be to be just a teenager and win this regionally known contest? I'd love to win, but I need your help! Please vote at the following link, and share the link with everyone you know on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/tumblr/etc.! Voting goes all the way until October 24th, so while I may be in first now, that could change over the course of the next few weeks. Please vote here: 

I'm not like most other teenage girls my age, who anxiously await fall because of Pumpkin Spice Lattes from Starbucks. My biggest reasons for wanting fall to arrive are sweaters, hot tea and squash! Squash is so much more versatile than you think, and I really want to show you guys that, so you'll probably be seeing a lot of squash recipes this month. You better like squash, and if you don't, learn to like it. That's an order. You're missing out if you don't!

One fall favorite of mine has been a Winter Squash Curry Soup, which is a puree of squash with heavy cream and curry powder. It's not exactly the healthiest thing, but I love the curry element to the dish. Whenever I think of curry, I think of spicy foods because I always make my curries fairly hot. This inspired me to experiment with the idea of a spicy squash dish rather than a curry squash dish, leaving the unconventional element without ripping off a previous concept I've seen. If you don't like spicy things, don't worry! You can still easily make this dish by toning down the spice factor or omitting the hot spices completely. There's still a lot of flavor in the rest of the dish, especially in the amazingly creamy sauce. This honestly turned out better than I expected, so I suggest you give it a try! Serve it with roasted pork chops and applesauce, roasted chicken with thyme, or any other protein-packed entree. 

Spicy Squash Season Penne
Serves 6 - 8 

1 (16 oz) bag whole-wheat penne
1/2 of a large butternut squash
3 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 cup unsweetened almond milk 
1 tsp nutritional yeast (optional) 
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
3/4 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
12 large crimini mushrooms
1/2 of a large yellow onion, thinly sliced 
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced 
Salt and pepper, to taste 

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Take the half of the squash, which should have been cut from the squash by slicing it lengthwise down the center, and remove the seeds. Coat in 1 tbsp of coconut oil, using your hands to warm up the oil a bit and spread it evenly. Don't worry about clumps at all - since the oil is a solid at room temperature, it's bound to do this, but it will liquefy in the oven. Season with dried thyme, dried oregano, salt and pepper. Bake, face down, for 45 minutes to an hour, until fork tender. Do your homework while you wait! Remove from heat and let cool.

2) While the squash is cooling, you can bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water and add the pasta. Cook according to the directions on the package. Drain and put the noodles back into the pot.
3) Once the squash is completely cool, scrape out all of the edible flesh into a bowl and place the contents in a Vita-Mix, food processor or blender. Add the almond milk, nutritional yeast, cayenne pepper, chili powder, crushed red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Blend on a medium speed and gradually increase to high until a super creamy consistency is reached. It should also be fairly thick, like the consistency of soft-serve ice cream. If you want it thinner, just add more almond milk. Adjust the seasonings and set the sauce aside.

4) Heat the remaining coconut oil in a large skillet at medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute until just coated in oil. Then, let them sit for about 3-5 minutes, until they begin to get golden brown. Stir and let sit for another 3 minutes. Repeat this process until they look almost caramelized. Add the garlic, mushrooms, salt and pepper. Incorporate the ingredients in thoroughly and saute until the mushrooms are tender, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat.

5) Combine the noodles, pasta sauce and mushroom mixture in the large pot. Stir thoroughly and serve. Enjoy!

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Stay healthy!
- Madeline 

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