Winter Solstice Recipes

This has been one of those weeks of food when I think, "I should post this." But somehow the ingredients don't get measured, or it didn't turn out as well as I had hoped, or there was no time for a photo. So instead of giving you a single recipe with exact how-to's, I will share with you what I've been eating and hope it inspires you in some way.

For breakfast this morning I had oatmeal, but instead of the typical cranberries (or raisins) and walnuts I usually do, I switched it up and used dried sweet cherries and salted pumpkin seeds. Bring a cup of salted water to boil, add 1/2 cup of oats, reduce heat and simmer for about 5-7 minutes. Top with dried cherries, brown sugar, pumpkin seeds, cinnamon, and a splash of milk if you like.

Last weekend I co-hosted a progressive dinner. My home welcomed the first course, and the second and third courses were at different homes in the neighborhood. My friend Candice and I made pomegranate fig dip paired with blue cheese and bread, along with mini latkes. Rave reviews all around. Candice also made a whole bunch of challah bread to go with the main course. I'm pretty sure she used the recipe from Smitten Kitchen. We got to share in the bounty by keeping an extra loaf for ourselves, and it's been kind to us all week. A slice with butter as part of my breakfast. Leftover pomegranate fig dip and blue cheese grilled on challah bread. And this delicious peanut butter, banana, and chocolate toast on challah bread.

Earlier this week I made a super easy chicken dinner with ingredients that I just happened to have around: two chicken breasts, rubbed with olive oil and salt. Bake until done, then add about 2 cups of tomato sauce, a (frozen and thawed) package of peppers and onions, a cup of mozzarella, and a quarter cup of Parmesan. Pop back into the oven to heat through. Baked squash on the side. So easy and hands off.

I've been limiting my sweets to weekends and Wednesdays. During my pregnancy and up until recently, I was having dessert every day! Sure, I need extra calories, but not those calories. So on Wednesday (dessert day) I indulged in the perfect combination of natural vanilla ice cream with a splash of amaretto. Ah, so tasty.

Lunch today was butternut squash lentil mash with feta on top. It was amazingly easy to make (I like easy these days). Cut a butternut squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Top each have with a few slices of butter and a sprinkle of salt. Roast at 375 degrees for about an hour or until soft. Meanwhile, bring two cups of red lentils and four cups of water to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for about 20 minutes, until lentils are soft and water is absorbed. Scoop out squash and mash with lentils. Divide into serving portions and top with feta. You could also substitute goat cheese or Parmesan for the feta. This will probably make four main dish servings or eight side servings.

Happy winter solstice, friends! Let's hear it for the end of darkening days.