Monday, March 16, 2015

Roasted Beets, Butternut Squash and Fennel

Roasted Beets, Butternut Squash and Fennel 

I'm going to keep this post short. This is a recipe that I have made for eons. It includes two of my favorite fall and winter vegetables, beets and butternut squash (technically a fruit). It involves a bit of peeling, chopping and then roasting the veggies for about 45 minutes in the oven. The tannin in squash bothers my skin, so I wear dish gloves when peeling and seeding the butternut squash. These can be simply tossed over your salad, added to pizza, or served over quinoa and topped with crumbled goat cheese. Did you know that quinoa and beets are actually in the same family? No wonder they both provide such high sources of nutritional value. 

Beets are one of my favorite root vegetable. They liven anything up, with varieties ranging in color from vibrant reds and deep purples, to pink and white striped Chioggia Beets, and cheerful golden beets.  Their flavor is sweet and earthy, and they are entirely edible from the green to the root. Aside from their beauty, beets are a nutritional jackpot. Greens are full of folic acid, iron, calcium and vitamins A and C. The root, is full of phytonutrients, which act to detoxify the liver, aid in increased white blood cell production, and their antiflammatory properties, help suppress cancer cells. 

Preheat the oven to 375˚ 

A sheet pan works best for roasting. You can also roast the veggies in a glass cake pan, but you will need to increase the cooking time. 


  • 1 pound of a mixed variety of beets
  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 1 small fennel bulb
  • juice of 1 citrus fruit (I used grapefruit)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. thyme leaves
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 2-4 tbl spoons of maple syrup
  • 4-6 tbl spoons EVOO
Step 1: Wash and peel the beets and squash. Cut them into 1/2 cubes. Wash the fennel bulb, and coarsely chop into larger chunks. Keep in mind, the beet juice will stain your fingers for a short time. 

Step 2: In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients and toss well, being sure to coat all the veggies. Dump veggies onto the sheet pan. If there is extra liquid I reserve it and pour over the veggies half way through roasting, so they will not dry out. 

Step 3: Put the veggies in the oven to roast. Toss with a spatula every 10 minutes or so, so that all sides cook evenly and to prevent burning. Roast for about 45 minutes. 

When the veggies are tender, remove from oven. See above for how I prefer to serve them. 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas with Mole Sauce

Mi Lado Latino~ My Latino Side  

Yesterday instead of going to teach, I was able to participate in the Foreign Language Association of Maine conference. I saw some great presenters, with helpful resources and guidance on approaches to teaching a foreign language. I am always amazed by the amount of teachers in the room, and the number of Spanish speakers who come altogether for that day. Unfortunately, there wasn't a mixer or any kind of ice breaker activities, so really making connections still seemed difficult.

I ran into a colleague, who I actually met because our girls used to take ballet together. We sat and chatted for a while, claro en español, and we got to know each other a little better, which was nice. One of the presenters also gave her whole presentation in Spanish. My heart pounded. It jumped to my throat, afraid to speak, to make mistakes, to volunteer to read or answer questions, grasping for words that seemed to have vanished in the busy tormenta of my brain. In this rush of emotions, I remembered what that process of learning is like. I felt grief and loss, a skill that once was so good, now rusty and out of practice. Mostly, I yearned and pined for the opportunity to speak Spanish every day. To have it be part of every moment of my life. I love it that much!

For anyone who speaks a second language, its like this secret weapon you have hidden in your sock. A magic card, that you can flip over, and no one guesses it is there. It having the ability to eavesdrop on conversations, because no one suspects you understand a word. Its a window into an entire other world, full of passion and music, dance and laughter. I miss that part of me. That part of my life. Its tricky to explain. I know however, for anyone who has found themselves immersed in two worlds, you get it. There is you, always there, to the core. Then there is you, this part of you that has been awakened or perhaps suppressed. This other part of you that comes out when you speak another language, when you live steeped in another culture. For some it might not fit quite right. There are so many layers to this process of finding your voice in another language, telling jokes, coming across elegantly and not brusque. Learning the social norms, learning what humor is again. When you find it, its like being liberated. The first time you get a joke, someone thinks your funny, you can argue your point, or not get taken advantage of because you know your getting ripped off but don't know the words to stand up for yourself. When you learn the rhythm of the dance, and finally can keep up, ad lib and the steps become second nature, easy without so much thought. Your on top of the world, finally you belong. But if the time comes, when you must step back from that world, your ties are cut, your voice is silenced, the music stops...all those things lay dormant inside you, waiting again to be invited back, or for you to find your voice and dance your way back to the crux of the two world that are yours. The world where you speak in one language and listen in another, break dance at 10 and salsa at midnight, eat pancakes for breakfast at 8 and almorzar muy fuerte at 2. I'm taking baby steps, my Salsa needs some work, my pancakes might be perfect and my pollo still has just the right amount of picante. I'll get there, the dream hasn't been extinguished, in my heart I'm still dancing.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas ~ Ingredients

  • 2 small sweet potatoes 
  • 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed well
  • juice of half a lime
  • 1/2 cup of cilantro leaves, washed well and chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • EVOO
  • 8 flour tortillas (or corn but heat them lightly in a frying pan on low heat before rolling)
  • 6-8 oz grated Monterey Jack cheese

Step 1- I do this step the night before, but its not necessary. 
Wash and peel the sweet potatoes and cut into small 1/4 inch cubes. In a large container mix with lime juice, salt, cilantro leaves, pepper and about 1 tbl. spoon of EVOO. Cover and refrigerate (or use immediately) 

Step 2 
In a skillet, heat another 1-2 tbl.  spoons of EVOO. Add the sweet potatoes and sauté on low until tender. They don't need to be completely soft, as they will soften in oven, but shouldn't be crunchy either. Add in the black beans and sauté another 2 minutes or so to combine flavors. While your potatoes are cooking, is the best time to make the mole sauce. Also preheat your oven to 375 degrees. At this time you should also be sure your cheese is grated. 

Step 3 
Poor a very small amount of the Mole Sauce over the bottom of a an 8x11 pan. On a flat tortilla, place a couple spoonfuls of the potato and bean mix at one side, sprinkle with 2 tablespoons or cheese (more if you want super cheesy enchiladas). Don't over fill them, as it will be hard to roll. Roll the tortilla and carefully place in pan. Repeat this until all filling and or tortillas are used. 

Step 4 
Cover the top with the remaining Mole Sauce, then sprinkle with remaining cheese. Place in oven for 20-25 minutes. Until cheese is melted and bubbly. (If the sauce begins to dry out too quickly, cover pan with tinfoil) 

Serve drizzled with chipotle crema, a salad or green, rice and side of avocado. 

Mole Sauce ~ Ingredients

  • 6 oz can of organic tomato paste
  • 3 tbl. spoons chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 2 tbl. spoons of Trader Joe's Unsweetened Cocoa Powder (I'm partial here b/c its from Tumaco, Colombia)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 sweet onion chopped
  • 1 1/4 c. water
  • 2 tbl. spoons peanut butter
  • 1 tbl. spoon cornmeal
  • 4 tbl. spoons EVOO

Step 1

In a small sauce pan, sauté onion for 2 minutes. Add garlic and spices and sauté until soft. 

Step 2
Add water, lime juice and tomato paste. Let simmer on low heat until it begins to thicken. Add in the cocoa powder and remaining ingredients. Let simmer no less than 20 minutes. Transfer to a blender and blend until smooth.