No Wheat Wednesday recipe challenge: Squash Puree – and lots of it – and a crockpot recipe

I had a lot of squash. And I knew what to do with it.

I was blessed with getting a lot of squash from our CSA, and even a few more from my aunt, so I decided to begin with roasting about half of it, then pureeing it, and placing it in two-cup portions and then freezing. Whew. It really is quite a simple thing to do, actually.

It is just a multi-step process. I roast the squash when I’ve already got the oven on anyway, usually when I’m cooking dinner. Then, I just let the squash sit in the oven longer, until I’m good and ready to take them out. Maybe around bedtime? I just plop them on the glass-stove-top overnight, and deal with them when I’m good and ready the next day. Letting them sit, I’ve found, actually seems to help the meat separate from the skin. Which is cool.

Next, cut in half. De-seed. (Save some seeds for roasting, if you like.) Then, scoop out and right into the food processor in batches. using a Tbl or two of water as needed.

And that, folks, is definitely me least favorite part of the process.  The actual pureeing and then scooping out the glop and measuring it, then trying to put it in the bags without it getting all over me.

in the bags, ready for the freezer. that was about 1/2 of what I ended up with!

(So, yes, I dislike the part that is actually some WORK. True. Now you know that about me.)

But, now that its all said and done, I LOVE squash! There are lots of fun things one can do with it, and it features in my recipe I’m sharing today, which is wheat free, and dairy free.

This base recipe comes from an Indian cookbook, ‘Complete Book of Indian Cooking‘ by Suneeta Vaswani, but I have adapted it for my kitchen and my spice  cabinet. It is a little more involved, but it is quite delicious, and so I think its well worth it!

Adapted Parsi Chicken Stew with Lentils and Vegetables

1 bag lentils

6 – 12 chicken thighs

2 cups pureed butternut squash, or other winter squash/pumpkin

1 chopped onion

2-3 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 tsp salt, 1 tsp chili powder, 1 tsp. coriander, 1 tsp. cumin, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 3/4 tsp. cloves, 3/4 tsp. black pepper, 1/2 tsp. turmeric

1 inch gingerroot, peeled and minced

8 cloves minced garlic

3 tbsp. oil

3 cups onions, sliced thinly

6 frozen tomatoes (or 1 can diced tomatoes) (if using frozen, take out the night before, so they are pretty well thawed)

3 tbls cilantro (or 3 frozen cubes that you preserved during the summer)

splash of lemon juice

1. Combine the lentils, squash, onion, carrot and chicken in slowcooker in the morning, say, around 10 am. Turn on low. Add water until it reaches the top of the lentils. It doesn’t need to cover over all the chicken and veggies. Cook until you’re ready to prepare supper, or about 4-5 hours.

2. Put the 3 tbsp. oil in a flat saute pan, and flash-fry the combined spices above over medium high heat. Add garlic and ginger. Reduce heat to medium and add sliced onions. Add tomatoes. Cover and simmer until hot and combined. Break apart tomato into chunks, if using frozen whole tomatoes.

3. Take chicken out of slow-cooker and put aside in dish, covering to keep warm.

4. Scoop cooked lentil and veggie mixture into food processor and puree in batches until chunky or smooth as you like it (you could also use a potato masher, or not mash at all). Add tomato/onion/spice mixture into the lentil/veggie mixture, and keep warm in slowcooker.

5. Add optional cilantro (thawed) and a splash of lemon juice when serving. Serve the chicken covered with the lentil puree, or separately, as you like.

*I wish I would have taken a picture of the final result! Trust me, it was good. Hub’band took some leftovers to work, and even emailed me to thank me for the meal, again. 😉

Lost and Found: A Way to Use a Whole Chicken X 3

This post is both a lost AND found.

When was the last time you made a whole chicken? I would challenge you to try it, or to do it more often. It is economical, and really healthy for you. I never really thought much of buying a bag of frozen chicken breasts, but as I started contemplating having backyard chickens, and looking at pictures of chicks on the internet (ha ha), I noticed something:

They had heads, legs, thighs, and backbones.

My hot chicks, last summer. Even though small, I hope its clear to see they have many parts.

Now that I’m a caretaker of a flock of chickens, I feel even more convicted that using the whole bird is better for the world, and for our diets. Being good stewards means, at times, learning about what we’ve lost along the way. One of those things is how to use a whole chicken.

Cooking a whole bird is so easy, and so delicious.

What I’m doing lately is using the crockpot to cook my bird (shhh — don’t tell my backyard hens). So, so, very, very easy.

Take a  4 to 5 lb fresh or defrosted chicken, preferably from your local farmer. Take out your slowcooker. Grease the inside. Cut up an onion or two, and put on the bottom. Make up a spice blend, or use one your like, such as the Wildtree Smoked Mozzarella and Tomato Blend. Place the chicken on top of the onions, and rub about 2 Tbl. of spice blend all over it. Set crock to high, and in about 5 – 6 hours (when chicken temps done and juices run clear), cut up to the best of your ability, and enjoy. Thank you to Lisa Leake at the 100 days of Real Food blog, where I found this recipe!

Important: Save the skin and bones! Even if someone has nibbled on it! Save it!

After dinner dishes are done by your husband, put all the bones and stuff back in the slowcooker. You don’t even need to clean it out (you could, if you want. But you don’t really have to, in my opinion). Fill up with water. You can add additional cut up veggies, like celery and carrots. Before you go to bed, turn the slowcooker on low, and in the morning,

take cheesecloth or a flour sack dishtowel and then put a colander over a large bowl or other broth-catching receptacle. Strain out the skin, bones, spices and veggies (you can use the veggies, but keep in mind their nutrients are now in your delicious broth. They still have some fiber, though).

I do like to squeeze the flour sack towel at the end to get out some more fat.

I like to then put the broth in a pitcher, and just put it in the fridge.

Broth, and you can see the layer of fat, even while still lukewarm, starting to rise to the top

Within a couple of hours, you’ll see the top of it hardening – that is chicken fat, or schmaltz. If you want to read a really wonderful, interesting, at times heart-wrenching book (that expounds succinctly on the highly valued schmaltz), check out 97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement, by Jane Ziegelman. Review to come. Use the broth when you boil pasta, make rice, or steam veggies. Broth is good for your bones, because it comes from bones. Makes sense.

I skim off the schmaltz

Hardened schmaltz, ready to be skimmed off

and put it in a capped jar which I keep in the top back shelf of my fridge. Its great for greasing a pan when I’m going to make something savory. You could also fry with it, though I don’t know what the flash/smoke point is, and I do keep it on the low side so it doesn’t burn, smoke, or destroy the nutrients present.

1 chicken – 3 ways.

For dinner, for broth, for fat.

B-gaaaaaawk!