Hi guys! I feel like its been forever. Truth is, I’ve been so caught up with Thanksgiving menu planning that I focused all of my energy on that and nothing else. You might be thinking that I must have had some kind of feast for tons of family and friends, however- Thanksgiving dinner was just me and my hubby. I planned a 5 course comprehensive menu that highlighted all of the delicious flavors of fall. My hubby confirmed that it was a huge success, and you’ll be seeing at least a couple of the recipes up on here in the coming weeks.
The long Thanksgiving weekend was very welcome. We stayed in the city for Thanksgiving, then went for a short getaway to Beacon, NY by train. I’ve been wanting to go to Beacon for the longest time, but kept procrastinating- after all, there are a ton of places around NYC for quick getaways, so it’s easy to get decision fatigue and just go with a place you’ve already been to.
The town itself is very cute, with an artistic vibe since DIA Beacon (contemporary art museum with large scale works that are typically on long term view) is the main attraction. We had breakfast at the cutest gluten free bakery called Ella’s Bella’s, which had the most amazing muffins made with a flour blend that I’ll be trying soon. Once we finally looked up after a few minutes of scarfing down the delicious muffins, scones and coffee, we realized that we were in the company of several artists around us, evident by the many fresh paint smears on their pants. It was refreshing and completely relaxing to be in this environment, full of creativity, good food, and super slow pace. We ate dinner at a tiny restaurant called Kitchen Sink, which had cauliflower risotto with mushrooms- total flavor bomb! I highly recommend it.
It was a rainy afternoon, a perfect time to wander the large, white walled spaces of DIA: Beacon. As I used to work in the art world until very recently, I’ve forgotten how much I love being in the galleries of wherever it may be- museum, gallery, auction house exhibition viewing, absorbing, and contemplating art. My favorite were Richard Serra’s Torqued Ellipses (picture directly below)- monumental scale led sculptures, each one shaped a bit differently, with almost a labyrinth-like feel to them. There’s something mysterious and powerful about standing in the middle of the sculpture, led walls all around you, dark, and alone. This space allowed you to experience the art in pretty much solitude, which I enjoy the most.
Being in the presence of great art is incredibly inspiring- even if the particular artist or genre of art is not your favorite (I can’t say that I love all of the artists shown in this museum) but I still found a great deal of pleasure being in this environment and absorbing all that was around me. In our crazy busy lives, it’s easy to forget that inspiration is all around- you just need to make time (and it doesn’t have to be alot!) to step away from the everyday tasks and enjoy the beauty available to you.
I used to be obsessed with mac and cheese. Well, all foods with cheese in them, really. This version is made with butternut squash, chickpea miso (amazing!) and a smoky tea called lapsang souchong. With all of the holiday food-heaviness, this mac and cheese is a much needed relief to the usual pasta dish, and versions of this are eaten in my household pretty much weekly. Adding the tea is optional, but it provides a nice smokyness that you can probably also attain by using liquid smoke (although I haven’t tried). I found the tea in a tea shop in Chinatown, but you can also get it on amazon, there are tons of options. This tea is awesome to cook with- I wouldn’t necessarily just drink it
straight as it is very strong, but you can add it to soups, pastas, etc- wherever you need a touch of smoke. This tea originally came from China, and the black tea leaves (souchong) are traditionally roasted in a bamboo basket which is heated over pine wood, providing the rich smoky taste.
Velvety Vegan Butternut Squash Mac n Cheese
- 16 oz package of pasta of your choice- I used Tinkyada brown rice shells
- half of an onion, small dice
- ⅓ cup sundried tomatoes, rehydrated and chopped
- ½ cup organic frozen peas
- 2 Tbls avocado oil, divided
- salt & pepper
- ⅓ cup sunflower seeds, roughly chopped
- parsley for garnish (optional)
- half of large butternut squash
- 1 Tbls chickpea miso
- 2 tsp brown rice vinegar
- lemon juice to taste
- 1 tsp nutritional yeast
- 1 mediu garlic clove, chopped
- 1 Tbls lapsang souchong tea ( can sub a few drops of liquid smoke)
- Preheat the oven to 350 F/190 C. Slice the ends off the butternut squash, and cut it in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and save for future roasting or discard. Rub the inside with a tablespoon of avocado oil and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, cut side down. Roast the squash for about 30 min, or until easily pierced with fork.
- While the squash half is roasting, cook the pasta according to the package instructions. be sure not to overcook but leave al dente, as you will be baking it in the oven for a few more minutes.
- Heat a pan with 1 Tbls oil. Add the chopped onion and sautee on low heat until the onions are caremelized, careful not to burn them.
- To make the tea, boil ½ cup of water and add the tea, steep for 5 min and strain.
- Once squash is cooked and cooled for a few minutes, scoop out the flesh and add to blender. Add the tea, miso, brown rice vinegar, garlic, nutritional yeast and blend until smooth. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. Add the sauce to the pot of pasta, along with the peas, onions, and sundried tomatoes. Mix well and add the mac and cheese to a baking dish.
- Preheat the oven to 375F/200C. Sprinkle the sunflower seeds on top of the mac and cheese and bake for approximately 10 minutes. Optional: put the oven on broil for the last 2-3 minutes to get a nice browning on the sunflower seeds. Garnish with parsley and enjoy!