Bring on the Vegetables: Garlic-Seared Brussels Sprouts, Pan-Fried Parsnips & Leeks, Sweet 'n Salty Roasted Butternut Seeds (gluten free, vegan, ACD friendly)

My parents and grandma were in town this weekend.  They came up to see "Devoured", The 16th Annual Barebones Productions Halloween Extravaganza .  I'm playing in the orchestra this year, and we just had our opening weekend of shows.  This annual production takes place outside in a beautiful, wooded park next to the Mississippi River in St. Paul, MN.  For those of you unfamiliar with Minneapolis and St Paul, the Mississippi River cuts between the cities in a beautifully tree-lined river gorge.  The governments of both cities have put a great priority on forming a well-developed park system, and there are trails and parks that line both sides of the river the length of both cities.  When you are walking the tree-lined trails or along the sandy shore, hearing nothing but bird calls, or are canoeing or kayaking along quiet stretches of the Mississippi, it is easy to forget you are in a metropolitan area of nearly 1 million people.  It is especially beautiful this time of year, when summer's green changes to the warm ochre, burnt orange, and fiery red and fall.

The performance takes place in Hidden Falls Regional Park, one of my favorite parks, and it is really something awesome.  Taking place in the evenings (the darkness ups the spookiness factor), the performance features larger than life puppets, fire dancers, people on stilts, and and a masked actors, set to a different story line each year.  This year's theme plays off the Egyptian myth of Anubus, the tale of Little Red Riding Hood, and the various stories of werewolves.  Accented with kick but lighting, AWESOME live music, and the natural beauty of the heavily wooded park, it is a really magical show.  I'm playing in the orchestra, and have felt lucky to meet and play with such a talented and creative group of people.

If you live in the Twin Cities, and are looking for something fun to do this coming weekend, come to our final two performances!  They will be held Friday, Oct 30 and Saturday, Oct 31, at 7 pm, in Hidden Falls Regional Park in St. Paul, Minnesota.  Check out the Barebones Productions website for more info, and I hope to see you there!

When I wasn't performing this weekend, we had a great time hanging out, hitting up the farmer's market,  taking Grandma to Ikea for the first time (what an adventure!), and of course, cooking a big family lunch at my aunt and uncle's house.  My dad and I fixed two very quick and tasty vegetable side dishes from our farmer's market finds, Garlic-Seared Brussels Sprouts and Pan-Fried Parsnips & Leeks.  They were so good and in keeping with my promise to share more simple vegetable recipes, I thought I'd share them with all of you!  I also made some über-delicious Sweet 'n Salty Roasted Butternut Seeds, a recipe that was too addictive not to share.  Stevia + salt + roasted seeds = naturally delicious snacking heaven.

Speaking of butternuts and all things squashy/pumpkiny, I also made a too-good-to-be-true-but-it-is vegan, gluten free, sugar free, fairly ACD-friendly Pumpkin Pie with Crunchy Crust and Cashew Whipped Cream for our lunch.  WHAT?!!?!?!  Yes, it is true friends, and I can attest to the fact that is was AMAZING.  I actually used butternut instead of pumpkin, which I tend to prefer for pie because it is naturally sweeter.  Anyway, it got a great big thumbs up from my whole family, pie-expert Grandma included, as well as two of my dear friends that I happened to run into when I had the leftover pie in my car.  The texture is dense and velvety, the flavor is sweet and spicy, the crust is crunchy and delicious, and the cashew whipped cream is thick, rich, and rather addictive.  Hard to believe there's no added sugar, no eggs, no dairy, no gluten, and only a little added fat!  That post will be coming shortly, I'm working on writing it up.  But here's a little photo for a teaser.

In the meantime, eat your vegetables.  Dessert will come later.

GARLIC-SEARED BRUSSELS SPROUTS (vegan, gluten free, ACD friendly)

serves 8

1 1/2 pounds Brussels Sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise

4-5 cloves garlic (about 1/2 medium bulb), peeled and thinly sliced lengthwise

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Herbamare/sea salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste

  1. Wash, trim, and half Brussels sprouts, and peel and slice garlic.
  2. Fill a large pot with about 1 inch water, or insert a vegetable steaming tray, and set water on to boil. Once water is boiling, add Brussels sprouts, and steam until just tender, about 4-5 minutes.  Remove from steamer immediately and set aside.
  3. While Brussels sprouts steam, heat olive oil over medium low heat in a large pan.  Add garlic cloves, and saute for 10 minutes, until garlic is softened, golden, and fragrant.  Keep heat low so garlic doesn't burn and taste bitter.  
  4. Add steamed Brussels sprouts to pan, and turn up heat to medium high.  Stirring frequently, sear Brussels sprouts and garlic until they become golden and  a little crispy.  Make sure garlic doesn't burn.  
  5. Once Brussels sprouts have reach desired "seared"ness, remove from heat, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.  Garnish with Sweet 'n Salty Roasted Butternut Seeds for a tasty twist.

Other ways to use this dish:

  • Chill and serve on a vegetable plate or relish tray.
  • Use on a warm salad with greens, roasted butternut squash cubes, and a sprinkling of chopped nuts/seeds
  • Throw leftovers into stew, pot pie, or shepherd's pie

PAN-FRIED PARSNIPS & LEEKS (vegan, gluten free, ACD friendly)

serves 8

6-7 small parsnips, peeled and sliced in 1/8" slices

2-3 medium leeks, white parts only, sliced in 1/4" slices

2-3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

about 1/2 c water or broth

Herbamare/sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste

optional: dash nutmeg

  1. Wash, peel and slice parsnips, and trim and slice leeks.
  2. Heat 1-2 Tbsp olive oil a large pan over medium heat, then add parsnips and leeks, stirring to coat with oil.  Add water, and cover, stirring occasionally, cooking until parsnips are tender and water is absorbed.
  3. Remove cover, adding additional 1 T olive oil, and turn up heat to medium high.  Saute until parsnips have become slightly golden, and season with Herbamare and sea salt.
  4. Remove from heat, and serve immediately.

Other ways to use this dish:

  • Mash instead of leaving whole for a tasty mashed potato substitute - serve plain, with gravy, or use to top a shepherd's pie!  
  • Blend with broth and/or your favorite milk substitute for a creamy, flavorful soup.
  • Throw in the blender/food processer with 1/2-1 c of white beans and a little extra olive oil for a creamy bean dip.

SWEET 'N SALTY ROASTED BUTTERNUT SEEDS (vegan, gluten free, ACD friendly)

seeds from 1 butternut squash

1 tsp grapeseed, coconut, or other high temperature oil

tiny pinch stevia powder

sea salt

  1. Scoop the seeds from the squash, and clean off the stringy squash meet.  Soak seeds in salted water for about an hour, to help soften the seed and clean off the squash goo.
  2. Rinse well, and transfer to a baking pan.  Heat an oven to 400*.  Bake for about 10 minutes to dry out a bit, stir, drizzle with oil and a sprinkling of salt, and stir again to coat 
  3. Place back in oven and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes, until golden and crisp, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.
  4. Remove from oven and transfer to a bowl.  Add a teeny tiny sprinkling of stevia powder and additional salt to taste, and stir to coat.
  5. You probably won't have leftovers, but if you do, cool completely and keep in a well-sealed jar in the fridge.