SPONSORED POST: Sweet and Tangy Late Summer Squash Quinoa

SPONSORED POST: Sweet And Tangy Late Summer Squash Quinoa

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summer squash quinoa

Two days ago on our morning walk, Tim and I put on sweatshirts. Yesterday, I pulled out my boots for the first time since May. Today, the window’s open in the bathroom, and even from the next room over, I can smell the fresh air and feel a cool breeze coming in (the high today in Nashville was 72 degrees). What’s more, down the hall and in the kitchen, the oven is on, and I have a pot filled with root vegetables boiling on the stove. Fall is here, officially and obviously, and I’ve been dressing, eating and, what I’m trying to say, I guess, is enjoying this new season, even when it means summer’s gone.

summer squash quinoa

But before we get too deep in changing leaves, could I get one last hurrah for summer? I hate to say it as a lifelong October lover, but sometimes I’m nostalgic for the season that ends (besides winter). And while I was all set to pack away this late summer squash recipe for next year, our Monday CSA pickup brought a few more of the yellow squash we’ve been seeing the last few weeks. So I thought maybe you wouldn’t mind if I slipped this late summer squash quinoa dish in? You could, of course, swap out the yellow squash with a nice winter one, cubed and roasted with oil until it’s caramelized. You could, also, decide to go elsewhere for a recipe featuring pumpkin or apples. I’ll understand.

summer squash quinoa

For now, here’s a quinoa dish we enjoyed before the temperatures dropped and the days shortened. It’s a reminder of the beauty that was, even as we walk forward into the beauty that is and the kind that is to come.

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Roast Chicken on Tomatoes + Potato Spaghetti Squash Puree

Roast Chicken On Tomatoes + Potato Spaghetti Squash Puree

chickenandsquashpuree

September 11, 2013 has been a beautiful day here in Nashville. Tim and I woke up early to grind popcorn kernels and make skillet cornbread. The cornbread was a dud, but Tim made a berry smoothie that wasn’t. Then, we drove through blue skies and bright sun to our car dealership, twenty minutes south, where a serviceman checked us in to get our air-conditioning fixed and asked the time: It was 9:11 AM on the nose.

dinner

Twelve years ago this morning, I was standing in a Wisconsin hotel, curling my hair, when my mom shouted from the TV in the main room, “Come look at this!” and I didn’t say anything, and we called my dad in Illinois, and he was crying. Today, I walked away from a serviceman and into a Tennessee car dealership lounge, where Tim and I would listen to someone making popcorn and watch a 10-month-old baby boy named John crawl around the room.

My mom and I were at that Port Washington hotel because I was scheduled for traffic court on September 11, for driving 24 miles over the speed limit a few months before. I remember telling the judge that day that I was sorry. “I don’t want to ever speed again,” I said to her when it was my turn. Everyone was talking about the planes and the towers, and there I was apologizing for something that was no one’s fault but my own. After court, we tried shopping, but our hearts weren’t in it. I wanted to drive back to school before dark. So my mom drove back to Naperville, and I drove back to college, and, when I got there, I returned to TVs all over campus, broadcasting live coverage of what was going on.

Today, Tim and I drove away from the car dealership and to the grocery store to pick up chicken; I had a dinner idea I told him I wanted to try. In the broad, bright Tennessee daylight, we cruised back up I-65 and then over to our house. We roasted spaghetti squash and tomatoes and chicken, and we boiled potatoes to combine with squash in a puree. We ate dinner by candlelight, the days shorter and the sun gone by before seven o’clock these days. And I exclaimed, over and over again out loud to Tim and Nathan, two men I’d never even met twelve years ago, about how much I liked the dinner tonight and how special it felt.

chickendinner

It occurs to me as I sit down on my bed tonight, fresh from this dinner, trying to write this post, how many people aren’t alive to be able to read it today. There are the ones killed by tragedy on this day twelve years ago, and there are the ones killed on other days by other things since then, from a Boston bombing to a Middle Eastern bombing to cancer to depression to kidney failure to old age. Even as I’ve been writing these thoughts, a mosquito has been bothering me, and I just, almost mindlessly, killed it between my hands and took it to the bathroom trashcan. Death is all around us. Life ends. We all know this, but there are a million ways to pretend it away—and in the pretending away, we miss something true. We are not promised tomorrow. Who of us knows when his or her life will end? Days like today, remembering and reflecting, it’s easy to see. We are finite. Our lives are short. And then, it’s easy to give thanks for the sheer blessing of living, of driving to the car dealership, of eating roast chicken in your dining room, of coming here to write about it in a blog post.

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Coconut Sugar Lemon Curd on Gluten-Free Basil Shortbread

Coconut Sugar Lemon Curd On Gluten-Free Basil Shortbread

Tim and I woke up screaming in the middle of the night last week. I didn’t check the clock when it happened, but it must have been 2 or 3 AM, the only noise the hum of our air filter, the only light our neighbor’s driveway flood lamp. Even with our blinds closed, the flood light still filters in, our unavoidable night-light while we sleep; we’ve said many times that we should buy drapes to make the room darker, but, two years in, we haven’t. The first thought I had was, I’m screaming! The second was, Tim’s screaming! He’d been having a nightmare, his explanation came out in a slow mumble. In the midst of it, he was about to fall off the bed, bringing our blue quilt with him, but just before he could, his legs kicked and his eyes opened and he screamed, louder than I knew he could scream, and right in that deep-sleeping moment, my body joined in.

The next day, after we’d replayed the entire experience for each other, right down to the way I nervous-laughed for about seven minutes after waking up, imagining our poor upstairs neighbor wondering what was going on, I finished my work hours and Tim said, Go do something that refreshes you—Go bake! And I made lemon curd.

lemon curd on basil shortbread

I got the idea because someone I follow on Instagram made a lemon curd tart recently, saying how it’s the simplest set of ingredients, just egg yolks, sugar, lemon, and butter, and the day after the Screaming Episode, simple seemed like just the thing.

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Radish Panzanella

radish panzanella

Telling you I like panzanella is a little like telling you my teenage self liked pizza. I don’t like panzanella; I want to eat it every day. In the same way I grew up buying Tombstone and Jack’s and, let’s be honest, eating any pizza anyone would give me, now I want panzanella, and I want it all the time. Really, the jump from pizza addict to panzanella evangelist isn’t a crazy one. The most traditional versions of panzanella are practically pizza, deconstructed: bread, tomatoes, basil, mozzarella cheese. But lately, my panzanella love has pushed me to new combinations of ingredients, ones far stretched from anything resembling a pizza slice. And while sure, I might be biased, I have to say, I think a radish panzanella like this one could make a zealot out of anyone.

radish panzanella

This salad starts with radishes—and saying radishes are beautiful is kind of like saying I like panzanella.

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Zucchini Ribbons in Vegan Pesto Alfredo Sauce

Zucchini Ribbons in Vegan Pesto Alfredo Sauce

There is such satisfaction in bringing together a meal, especially on a dreary day. Where most people crave blankets and movie screens on cloudy weekends, I am the type to crave the kitchen. The kitchen is a place of birth and discovery–a space for testing ideas and seeing what works, for creating combinations that nourish and delight–and when the dreary day you’re facing stems from more than the weather, discovering new things is like medicine for the soul.

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Beet and Lettuce Salad with Green Onion Vinaigrette

Beet and Lettuce Salad with Green Onion Vinaigrette

Tim and I got a new bathroom ceiling this week. First, we got a massive ceiling bubble that Tim had to pop with a knife, straddling the toilet and the tub, a five-gallon bucket in his other hand while water shot from the ceiling cyst like milk from a cow; but then, beginning Wednesday and ending, hopefully, right around the time this post publishes, a nice handyman named Jim patched and worked and painted things, and our ceiling looked like a ceiling again. I’m not afraid to use the bathroom anymore, and I don’t have to drive down the street to White Castle to sneak into the ladies’ room, so obviously things are looking up. Also, Monday night and Tuesday night, like rewards for the days we’d survived and laughed through, the two of us sat down to matching plates piled high with salads like this one. Even I have to admit it’s hard to complain when your plate is full of this.

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Strawberry (Basil) Jam + Strawberry Jam Coconut Milk Ice Cream

Field of Strawberries

Last week, my friend Christina and I went strawberry picking. I like Christina. Christina is sharp and funny and unassuming enough to regularly surprise you as you get to know her over time. She’s one of the maybe three friends I’ve ever had who is a twin. I’ve always wished I were a twin. People sometimes mistook my brother and me for twins (do you see it?) but, as his knee-jerk reaction has always been sheer and absolute horror when these assumptions have been made, I think it’s safe to say I’m the only one flattered there. I met Christina’s twin, Nicole, a few months ago over tacos at a table barely as wide as a paperback book; I liked her, too.

Freshly Picked Strawberries

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