this just in.
you heard it here first.
i’ve officially turned into my mother.
they all said it would happen, and i’ve even seen evidence of the phenomenon in other women. my own mother even warned me that she looked in the mirror and saw her mother staring back at her.
however, good news! my mother and grandmother are both awesome! and my sister, for that matter!
but back to my mother. she is a self-acclaimed JUNKIE for fall. she even orchestrated the birth of one of her children (moi) on a date that surely kicks off this beloved season every single year. every october 9, i pretend i’m a little pixy who waves her wand at the trees and thus begins the color show. you’re welcome. 🙂
and then, here comes the onslaught of pumpkin this, pumpkin that. it’s hard to walk into a coffee shop, smell a fresh-baked pumpkin loaf, and walk out without a slice in hand. and while many of us are running frantically to the nearest starbucks to load up on pumpkin spice lattes and caramel macchiatos, i am determined to find healthy ways to enjoy the sweet offerings fall brings.
my first installment: FALL PASTITIO (pah-stee-tsee-oh).
ever heard of PASTITIO? it’s a greek dish that is SO good ~ you have to spell it with all caps every time. believe me.
its main components consist of a meaty tomato ragu with the exotic addition of cinnamon to the ground beef or lamb. other supporting characters: pasta (which i’m changing to rice) and a nutmeg-injected bechamel sauce. hallelujah.
i’m pretty sure greeks would never change up this oh-so-perfect recipe, but i really wanted to add some fall flavors, and also make it a little healthier. okay, a LOT healthier. so i cleaned it up a bit.
the thing to remember about this dish: there are several layers, or steps. it might feel like a lot of work if you slave away at each layer all at once. but if you’re able, do a couple of the steps, refrigerate, then do a few more the next day, and bake. NBD. (no big deal, as the teenagers say)
in my case, i made the ragu and the rice and then ate some of it for lunch. then the next day, i used the rest for the PASTITIO. (there i go with the caps again)
so here’s what i did:
before i begin, here’s the ingredient list (it’s kinda long ~ might need to print it out…)
1lb ground turkey
1 box sliced mushrooms
1 small onion
28 ounce can san marzano tomatoes
veggie stock (or better than bouillon)
butternut squash, or acorn squash
1 red bell pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup almond milk or regular milk
1 small container greek yogurt
fresh grated parmesan cheese
fresh grated nutmeg
and here’s how it’s done!
STEP ONE: MAKE A YUMMY, CREAMY RAGU.
you can do this however you want, but this is my favorite.
- brown 1 lb ground turkey, a chopped onion, some garlic, and a container of sliced mushrooms in 1-2 teaspoons olive oil (i really feel like you could just use the mushrooms and get a “ground meat” texture with this technique, but it’s nice to have some added protein every once in a while). season with a tablespoon (or more) worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper, and a tablespoon each of dried oregano and cinnamon. use this method any time your recipe calls for ground beef and you will never miss the beef! and your lovely little waist will thank you, too.
- add a 28-ounce can of san marzano tomatoes (they’re the only tomatoes i buy at this point, but make sure they are the brand that doesn’t add sugar! imposters!!!)
- add a tablespoon balsamic vinegar, if you have it. if not, no biggie.
- let it bubble away for a few minutes, just to mingle and get to know each other.
- put the mixture in a food processor and pulse until the turkey, mushrooms and tomato are all the same size.
- later, you’re going to add a little of the bechamel sauce to make it creamy…
step one – done.
STEP TWO: MAKE A BATCH OF NUTTY, SPROUTED RICE.
- are you familiar with sprouted rice? most stores have medleys that contain brown, red and black rice, and they cook up so flavorful and hearty. prepare according to the package directions, substituting veggie stock for the water. i mean, why not? you might as well flavor every step.
rice keeps nicely in the fridge, or you can do what i did and put steps one and two together for lunch, with a little fresh parm on top! just make sure you save some for the PASTITIO!
STEP THREE: THE FALL ADDITION…EDITION.
- butternut squash, y’all. butternut squash. preheat your oven to 400 and cut your favorite squash in half – butternut or acorn or whatever. don’t bother cutting it up any more than that – it’s too difficult when it’s raw. i don’t even mess with the seeds until later either.
- rub some olive oil on it and sprinkle with salt. roast until soft. 45 minutes? depends on the size.
- also roast some other yummy veggies – red peppers, garlic cloves, zucchini. you only need a teaspoon or so of olive oil if you really toss the veggies well. and of course add salt and pepper. if you have a greek seasoning mix, add that too! (try to chop all these veggies up nice a small, since this will act as one layer of the PASTITIO.)
- cut up the squash into cubes and add to the roasted veggies and, heck, eat that step for lunch too! or for breakfast with an egg on top. see how this is the recipe that keeps on giving?
step three – done.
STEP FOUR: THE BECHAMEL FROM HIMMEL.
this is the part where you say, “i ain’t making no fancy bechamel sauce, lady.” well, have i got a surprise for you! this gravy, for lack of a better word, has a super healthy shortcut!!!
- in a frying pan, melt two tablespoons butter and some chopped garlic (one or two cloves). season with salt and pepper.
- when the butter starts to brown, add 1/4 cup almond milk or skim milk (have you heard that skim milk comes out blue when they remove the fat? and then they tint it white with god knows what. i’m not a fan, so i stick with almond milk these days). anyway, use a watery substance – whole milk works too. just not half and half.
- take the pan off the burner and add a small container of plain greek yogurt, a generous handful of fresh grated parmesan cheese, and some fresh thyme if you’ve got it. OMG I’M HUNGRY.
- add salt and pepper to taste, and as much fresh grated nutmeg as you can. just stand there and grate the nutmeg until your arm starts to hurt. seriously. if you only have the already ground kind of nutmeg, go ahead and use it, but add whole nutmegs to your grocery list, for sure. the difference is amazing!
- stir until you have a creamy, tangy, lovely sauce. too thick? Add more almond milk. too thin? not with all that yogurt in there. plus, its job is to seep through the PASTITIO and make everything creamy and right with the world.
step four – once hailed as the most difficult step – now easy. and done.
SO, all the steps are complete. here’s how you assemble.
- preheat your oven to 375.
- mix the rice with the ragu, a 1/2 cup of the bechamel together in a bowl, and pour into a 9×13 baking dish.
- add the roasted veggies on top.
- add the bechamel from heaven.
- top with some grated Parmesan and shredded white melty cheese, like gruyere or mozzarella. or just do the parm. you’re the decider of your fate.
- bake for 45 minutes to an hour. (or until the cheese is brown and bubbly.
that’s all folks.
this may feel like a lot of work, but it’s a joy to put it together, in my opinion. and it freezes beautifully in individual containers.
oh, you wanted a picture of the finished product??
HAPPY FALL EATING!!!