Squash, polenta, and kale Caesar salad

 Squash, polenta, and kale Caesar salad | Me & The Moose. Adults and kids alike love this healthy and hearty salad. It combines roasted squash, crispy polenta croutons, roasted spiced almonds, dried cranberries, and a tahini Caesar dressing for a regular weeknight dinner or a special holiday occasion. #meandthemoose #thanksgivingsalad #salad #healthycaesar #delicatasquash #polentacroutons #glutenfree #dairyfree

There ought to be a place on the internet where parents can go to brag about the common and mostly harmless, but also spectacularly sudden and disgusting illnesses of childhood. Without going into detail (this is a FOOD blog, after all), instead of sleeping, we spent Saturday night showering, taking baths, doing laundry, and scrubbing carpets. No bueno.

Anyhoo, does your sleep schedule affect your diet? I’ve learned in my old age that getting less sleep leads me to terrible food choices. So obviously, I ate horribly this weekend and am feeling it today. But this salad is getting me back on track.

 Delicata Squash is easy to prepare because it doesn’t require peeling. #meandthemoose #delicatasquash #healthycaesar #salad #fallsalad #thanksgivingsalad #thanksgivingrecipes
 Delicata Squash is easy to prepare because it doesn’t require peeling. #meandthemoose #delicatasquash #healthycaesar #salad #fallsalad #thanksgivingsalad #thanksgivingrecipes
 Delicata Squash is easy to prepare because it doesn’t require peeling. #meandthemoose #delicatasquash #healthycaesar #salad #fallsalad #thanksgivingsalad #thanksgivingrecipes

Delicata squash is one of the stars of this show. It requires less prep since the peel is edible. Just split it in half, scoop out the seeds, and slice. After roasting, the squash is sweet and creamy and the peel gets slightly crunchy, so it’s also a nice textural balance if your littles aren’t into “slimy” foods.

The dressing is my favorite dairy-free Caesar that’s been lightened up by swapping out tahini for the oil. The garlic, anchovies, and lemon taste even brighter and the sesame adds a nutty note that complements the rest of the salad’s flavors.

We also have crispy crunchy gluten-free croutons that are made with a store-bought polenta log. I accidentally discovered that putting a pizza stone in the oven while roasting the polenta SIGNIFICANTLY reduced the cooking time. Huzzah!

 Squash, polenta, and kale Caesar salad | Me & The Moose. Adults and kids alike love this healthy and hearty salad. It combines roasted squash, crispy polenta croutons, roasted spiced almonds, dried cranberries, and a tahini Caesar dressing for a regular weeknight dinner or a special holiday occasion. #meandthemoose #thanksgivingsalad #salad #healthycaesar #delicatasquash #polentacroutons #glutenfree #dairyfree

The spiced, roasted nuts add even more crunch, which pairs nicely with the creaminess of the roasted squash. Toss on a few sweetened, dried cranberries and you have a harvest salad that hits all of the right salty and sweet notes. (A nutty cheese on top is entirely optional.)

I daresay this hearty pescatarian salad would be a welcome addition to your Thanksgiving table too.

A couple of notes:

  • I don’t salt the polenta before roasting. Most commercially made polenta has a fair amount of sodium in it already and you’ll be adding salt to the dressing and the squash.

  • While there are multiple steps to this salad, most of them can be completed simultaneously. You can also double the dressing recipe and it will keep well in a covered container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

  • Also, unlike dressed lettuce, which wilts quickly, kale only softens slightly and gets less bitter when left to sit with the dressing on, so make this salad ahead (or double the recipe) and eat it throughout the week.

  • A note about the size of this recipe: This recipe yields a main course for two adults and one child with either crusty bread or another protein on the side. If making this to last for the week or for a holiday meal, I would double or triple the recipe. All of its elements last on their own and are easy to toss into other meals.

 Squash, polenta, and kale Caesar salad | Me & The Moose. Adults and kids alike love this healthy and hearty salad. It combines roasted squash, crispy polenta croutons, roasted spiced almonds, dried cranberries, and a tahini Caesar dressing for a regular weeknight dinner or a special holiday occasion. #meandthemoose #thanksgivingsalad #salad #healthycaesar #delicatasquash #polentacroutons #glutenfree #dairyfree

Squash, polenta, and kale Caesar salad


2 small bundles of Lacinto (Tuscan) kale (about 6 cups)
Tahini Caesar dressing (recipe below)
Roasted almonds (recipe below)
1 log pre-made polenta, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 medium Delicata squash, halved, seeds scooped out, and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Dried cranberries, to taste
Nutty cheese, such as gruyere, gouda, or parmesan, to taste

Preheat the oven to 425.

Tear or chop the kale into small bites.

Make your dressing (see recipe below). Add about 1/2 of the dressing to the torn kale and mix well. Add more to taste or reserve the rest for serving later. Set aside.

Make the roasted almonds (see recipe below). Set aside.

Chop the polenta and toss with 1 Tbsp olive oil. Spread onto your roasting pan and cook for 20 minutes. Flip and toss the pieces with a spatula, return to the oven and cook for another 20 minutes.

Clean and prepare the Delicata squash. Toss with the remaining 1 Tbsp of oil. Spread on a baking tray and sprinkle with salt. Roast for 15-20 minutes or until the squash is soft.

  • I like to add the squash to the same oven as the polenta for the polenta’s last 20 minutes or so.

Add the squash, polenta, almonds, and cranberries to the salad. Feel free to use all or just some of the salad add-ins and reserve the leftovers for something else. Top with a few shavings of nutty cheese, if desired.

Yield: about 2 adult main-course salads and 1 child main-course salad; 4 side salads

Roasted almonds
½ cup raw almonds
½ tsp olive oil
½ tsp paprika
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp rosemary
¼ tsp Aleppo pepper
¼ tsp garlic powder

Preheat the oven to 425. Toss the almonds with olive oil. Mix the spices together and add to the almonds. Mix well. Spread on a foil or parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 4-6 minutes, until you can smell the spices and the nuts are crunchy. Check often to avoid burning.

Tahini Caesar dressing
2 Tbsp Primal Kitchen avocado mayonnaise
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2-3 whole anchovy fillets
2 medium cloves garlic
¼ cup tahini
¼ cup water (added 1 Tbsp at a time)
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the mayo, lemon juice, mustard, anchovies, garlic, tahini, and 2 Tbsp of water in a food processor and blend well. Add more water, 1 Tbsp at a time, until you’ve reached your desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.

  • Remember that the anchovies are salty, so taste before you add more!

 Squash, polenta, and kale Caesar salad | Me & The Moose. Adults and kids alike love this healthy and hearty salad. It combines roasted squash, crispy polenta croutons, roasted spiced almonds, dried cranberries, and a tahini Caesar dressing for a regular weeknight dinner or a special holiday occasion. #meandthemoose #thanksgivingsalad #salad #healthycaesar #delicatasquash #polentacroutons #glutenfree #dairyfree

Clam pizza

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Clam pizza is such a Connecticut thing. I'm sure some would argue that it's also a New York thing, but I feel like Frank Pepe, the New Haven pizza institution, is best known for it's clam pizza, and thus, clam pizza is a Connecticut thing. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

I first tried this briny, garlicky pie on a trip to Connecticut long before moving here myself. And I've been on a Goldilocksian journey to find the best one ever since. They have either been too salty, not garlicky enough, or without cheese and that is not acceptable to me when it comes to pizza. (Don't yell at me, people who think seafood and cheese should never mingle.)

 Some slapdash mis-en-place.

Some slapdash mis-en-place.

We have not yet found our favorite (sorry, Pepe's), but instead have been making our favorite. Full of three different kinds of cheese and two different kinds of garlic, this pizza tastes like clams and tastes like a proper pizza, but also SO MUCH MORE. 

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I used a pizza stone on a grill because a) not everyone has a grill, so you can easily recreate this in an oven with the pizza stone (see directions in the recipe); and b) because I've never grilled my pizza directly on the grates. If you're braver than I am, here are some instructions for that method.

If you aren't as into garlic (this recipe calls for 10 cloves!), either reduce the number of fresh cloves or just use the roasted ones. Their flavor is much mellower and blends well with the cheese.

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And please do garnish with the lemon and sea salt. They make a huge difference in the end product.

Clam pizza

1 pizza dough
Flour to prevent sticking when rolling out dough
Coarse corn meal, about 2-3 Tbsp
1 cup ricotta cheese
6-7 roasted garlic cloves (see method below)
2-3 large raw garlic cloves, minced
2 cans clams, drained (about 4 oz of clam meat)
1/2- 3/4 cup nutty cheese such as gruyere, sharp cheddar, gouda (not smoked), or fontina,
shredded
1 cup mozzarella, shredded
Parsley
Lemon wedges
Sea salt
Crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

For the roasted garlic:
Preheat the oven or toaster oven to 400. Smash 10 cloves of garlic, but don't remove the peels. Add them to a small oven proof container. I usually use a ramekin or a coffee mug. Cover with olive oil. Cook in the oven until the garlic is bubbling and fragrant and the cloves are very soft when (carefully! hot oil!) pushed on with a spoon, about 10 minutes.

Preheat your grill on high or your oven at 500. Remove the top rack of your grill or the second rack of your oven and move the remaining rack to the lower middle portion of the oven. (You want enough room above the rack to negotiate your dough onto the pizza stone, but be close enough to the top of the oven to easily brown your cheese. Add the pizza stone and let heat for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prep all of your toppings. Add the raw and roasted garlic to the ricotta, drain your clams, and shred and combine the mozzarella and nutty cheeses. Set aside. 

On a floured pizza board, roll out or press out your dough until very thin. Lift up half of the dough and scatter the coarse corn meal underneath. Repeat on the other side. Jiggle your pizza board to make sure that the dough will slide off easily. 

If cooking in the oven, add your toppings before placing the raw dough on the pizza stone, periodically shaking the pizza board to make sure that the topped dough will slide off easily. If the toppings are weighing down the dough too much, carefully add more corn meal under the crust.

Slide the topped, raw dough onto the pizza stone carefully. Cook for 6-8 minutes without opening the oven. Check the pizza and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until the cheese and the sides of the crust begin to brown. Check the bottom crust for doneness (it should be golden brown and crispy). Remove from the heat and top with chopped parsley, sea salt, lemon, and crushed red pepper flakes (optional).

If cooking on the grill, make sure all of your toppings are measured and easily spreadable. Slide the plain, raw dough onto your grill and quickly top with the ricotta and garlic mixture, the clams, and the shredded cheeses. Close the lid to the grill and let cook for 5 minutes. Check for doneness continue cooking for 2-3 minutes until the crust and cheese begin to brown.

Check the bottom crust for doneness (it should be golden brown and crispy). Remove from the heat and top with chopped parsley, sea salt, lemon, and crushed red pepper flakes (optional).

One note about grilling, the number of burners on your grill will change the speed at which this pizza cooks. A 6-burner grill might take less than 5 minutes, so check it sooner. A 3-burner grill might take a minute more. Use your judgement based on your grill or oven.

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Sheet pan dinner: Roasted white fish and cabbage tacos

 Roasted white fish, cabbage, and scallion tacos that all cook together on a sheet pan.
 Roasting the fish, scallions, and cabbage on a sheet pan make an easy weeknight taco night with almost no clean up.

The dog days of summer are here in the Northeast and it. is. sweaty. I'm hankering for things that are raw or minimally cooked, so a sheet pan dinner may seem counterintuitive. But the cooking here is very quick, requires very few dishes, and the end product leaves us feeling satisfied, but not stupified because being really hot and really full is like entering the third ring of hell.

 Taco night, but easier, healthier, and more interesting.

(As always, skip to the next photo to avoid the toddler update.)

Speaking of hell (KIDDING), we're in that annoying place where the things our kid does seem SO AWFUL to us, but when I tell others about his behavior, I'm usually met with, "Yeah, that sounds about right for a 3-year-old." For instance, I just about blacked out with rage (though I think I handled it okay), when M aimed his stream directly at the back of the toilet instead of into the bowl, effectively spraying our entire bathroom with pee. He thought this was HILARIOUS, while I floated out of my body and burst into a million pieces. The first person I told about this replied, "If he ever has a brother, they'll probably do it together."

Don't get me wrong, it's VERY comforting when other people are completely unfazed by M's behavior. But I'm still left wondering if I'm the world's least effective parent. It can be hard to process.

But I also get it. When I tell someone else about M's behavior that's driving me crazy, to them, it's an isolated incident. But when I'm asking him to put on his shoes for the 20th time after struggling to get him to do five other things in the past hour, that shoe battle feels so much more intense and difficult.

Basically what I'm saying is that 3 has been a tough age so far and that on exhausting days, the last thing I want to do is fight with dinner too (what a segue, huh?).

 The white fish roasts on a bed of lemons and limes.

This dinner is partly steamed and partly roasted. Roasting the fish with the veggies proved counterproductive because a lot of liquid came out of the fish while it cooked, which led to steamed veggies instead of roasted ones. No thanks. 

 Green and red cabbage are perfect for roasting with fish because they cook fast and get both melty and crispy.

Instead, you're going to wrap up the fish on a bed of lemon and lime in parchment bundles and let them steam on top of the cabbage and scallions to achieve the best of both cooking methods while still only using one pan. Because, it's hot. Here is a handy illustration of my favorite folding method:

So! Wrap up the fish and let it steam in the citrus. Chop the cabbage and scallions, toss with some olive oil, and throw the whole mess into the oven. While it's cooking, heat some taco shells, whizz some avocado crema in the blender, and prep any other toppings you might want (cheese, tomatoes, jicama, beans, etc). Tonight's dinner can be ready in about 30 minutes and is a nice departure from the usual taco night.

 Wrapping the white fish in parchment packages helps retain their moisture while also letting the cabbage and scallions get roasted and crispy. It also decreases the mess even more.
 Parchment contains the moisture so that the fish steams while the veggies roast.

Roasted cabbage fish tacos with avocado chipotle crema  

½ small head of red cabbage, roughly chopped
½ small head of napa cabbage, roughly chopped (about 6 cups total cabbage)
8 scallions, trimmed and cut in half width-wise
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large lemon
3 large limes, divided
1 ¼ lb cod or other firm white fish (four medium fillets)
1 Tbsp mayo
1 large avocado
Juice of 1 lime (about 1-2 Tbsp)
4-6 Tbsp water
1 small clove garlic
1-2 tsp chipotles in adobo or chipotle hot sauce
1/2 tsp kosher salt
12 corn tortillas

Preheat oven to 400.

Toss the cabbage and scallions with 2 Tbsp of olive oil and salt and spread onto a baking sheet. Set aside.

Slice the lemon and one of the limes. Spread out four sheets of parchment paper or tin foil on your countertop. Place 2 or 3 slices of the lemon and lime in the middle of the parchment. Place one fish filet onto the citrus bed and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

To fold the bundles, bring the edges of the two longest sides of the parchment together and fold over three or four times until you can’t fold anymore without hitting the fish inside. Next, fold the sides toward the middle until you’ve made a tight rectangle around the fish. Place on top of the veggies, making sure to move the scallions out from beneath the fish and toward the edges of the sheet pan.

Roast until the veggies are wilted and lightly browned and the fish flakes easily with a fork, about 15 minutes. If desired, carefully remove the fish bundles, being aware of steam that might escape, and roast the veggies for another 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the chipotle avocado crema. Combine the mayo, avocado, lime juice, water, garlic, chipotles or hot sauce, and salt in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. If too thick, scrape down the sides and add more water a little bit at a time and blend again until you've reached the right consistency. 

Toast the corn tortillas and prep any other fixings you might want with your tacos (cheese, more avocado, beans, tomatoes, etc). Squeeze some more lime juice over the assembled tortillas and serve.

Yield: 4 servings of three tacos and 1 fish fillet each

 Taco night and sheetpan dinner night in one! No mess!
 Colorful and healthy family taco night.
 Roasted cabbage and scallions are mellow enough for toddlers and picky eaters.

Shrimp and black bean burgers

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Shrimp is one of the things that M will almost always eat. Almost. He likes them cooked any way and in any flavor combination. But you know what? I worry about shrimp. There's a lot of variety and choice at the supermarket and it's hard to know what's best. Fresh or frozen? Large or small? Shells or no shells? Pink, white, tiger, or rock? Wild or farmed? Do I really need to spend $40 a pound? See? It's crazy making. I did a little (very very little) bit of research and there are a few guides out there to help determine what's right for you.

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Once you figure it out (or not, sometimes you just have to choose your choice and be done with it), these shrimp and black bean burgers are tasty and easy and summery and healthy. They're gluten-free because corn flour or corn meal are your binder. And though there's a long list of spices in there, the end result is subtle and complex, considering. 

And the chives add a nice green note to the burgers, but if you don't have any or can't find any, scallions are a nice substitution.

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A note about your choice of corn meal vs corn flour: I've made these with the the finest corn flour and the coarsest corn meal and they're good either way, so use what you have on hand. Just know that the finer the corn flour or meal, the better the patties stick together. The coarse meal works well, but you may have a bit of breakage in the cooking process.

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Black bean and shrimp burgers

12 oz shrimp, uncooked
12 large or 20 small chives, torn or chopped into large pieces
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp coriander
½ tsp Mexican oregano
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp chili powder
1/8 tsp cayenne
½ tsp salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup corn flour or meal
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
lime wedges for serving

If using frozen shrimp, defrost in lukewarm water and squeeze lightly before measuring.

Add whole raw shrimp to a food processor with the chives and the spices and pulse about 10-12 times until the spices are distributed and the shrimp are chopped into medium pieces.

Turn the shrimp mixture out into a bowl and add the eggs, cornmeal, and black beans. Mix well, smashing some of the beans with your spoon or spatula.

Form into 12 balls or patties (about a heaping ¼ each) and chill for 20 minutes.

Heat a skillet with some oil over medium heat. When ready turn heat down to medium low and brown on one side for 3-5 minutes. Flip the patties and repeat on the other side. Cover the pan, turn heat down slightly, and cook for 10-12 minutes or until cooked through. (I usually just split one open to test it.) 

Yield: 12 patties

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Sheet pan dinner: Miso fish with edamame and corn succotash

 Miso fish with edamame and corn succotash is maybe the easiest, fastest, heathiest, and cleanest meal I know how to make.

This might actually be the fastest dinner I know how to make. These are white fish steaks, but if you go for flatter, thinner fillets, it's even quicker! Either way, this dish is certainly faster than ordering bad-for-you takeout.

And this week, we definitely needed some easy, healthy dinners to help avoid the end-of-day, burned-out, bad decisions that sometimes happen at dinner time. I've been home with a super sick kid for the past few days and after just two weeks of M being in preschool, I forgot how exhausting it is to take care of a small person all day.

 Miso marinade is a simple mixture of garlic, ginger, sesame oil, neutral oil, and rice vinegar. Whizzing the whole mess in a food processor means that you don’t have to chop anything.

What I love about this dish is that it tastes kind of subtle. It's tangy and salty and certainly flavorful enough for the adults and older kids, but mild enough for the younger set if they don't love strong flavors.

 Miso, ginger, garlic, oil, sesame, and vinegar make for a tangy, sweet, flavorful marinate that perks up the bland white fish.

The sauce really makes this dish. It requires miso paste, which you might not have on hand, but is super easy to find at the grocery store or Japanese specialty store. If needs must, you can order it on amazon. I used a red miso paste, but red or white would work fine in this recipe.

 Add some butter mid-way through cooking this sheetpan dinner for some added richness.

Because miso tends to be really salty, I don't add any extra sodium to this dish, but feel free to add a pinch at the end if that suits your taste.

 Sheet pan dinner: white fish with miso, edamame, and corn succotash

Miso fish with edamame and corn succotash

For the sauce:
4 Tbsp miso
2 large garlic cloves
2-inch piece of ginger, peeled
2 Tbsp avocado or other neutral oil
2 Tbsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1/8- ¼ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

1½-1¾ lb white fish (about 4-5 medium steaks)
2 cups frozen edamame (shelled)
1 ½ cups frozen corn kernels
1 Tbsp salted butter, cubed

For serving:
2-3 large scallions, sliced
2-3 large zucchini, spiralized into noodles –or-
1 package of soba noodles, cooked according to directions –or-
4-5 cups brown rice, cooked according to directions

Preheat oven to 375. Make your sauce by placing all of the ingredients in a food processor and blitzing until the sauce resembles chunky peanut butter. Set aside.

Scatter the frozen edamame and corn over the sheet pan. Place your fish on top of the veggies and spread a scant tablespoon of the sauce over each filet.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the fish starts to flake fairly easily with a fork. 

Remove the pan and scatter small cubes of butter around the veggies. Return to the heat and cook for 4-5 more minutes. Remove from the oven and top with sliced scallions.

Mix half of the leftover sauce with your zoodles, noodles, or rice and then add more to taste. Top each serving of zoodles, noodles, or rice with one fish filet and a portion of the veggies.

Yield: 4-5 servings, depending on how many fish steaks you use.

 Eat this roasted fish with edamame and corn over zucchini noodles or soba noodles.
 Sheet pan dinner: Miso fish with edamame and corn. Quick, easy, healthy, and delicious.