The October meeting of the Baltimore Homemade Trade Club

Today was a beautiful day for trading!

I explained the Baltimore Homemade Trade Club the other month, if you’d like the long story. The short one: we make (usually food-)stuff, we meet up at somebody’s house, and then we trade our stuff for everyone else’s stuff. Everybody gets to share something they’re proud of and go home with a varied assortment of edibles.

One of my favorite parts of trading is having an excuse to make adorable labels for my goods. (I may have been teased that the reason I started the Homemade Trade was as “a soft launch for [my] pickle company,” which is totally not true! Except for maybe in my dreams.)

I decided to trade eight jars of Pilar’s Pickled Mushroom Medley #1. I renamed it since I knew the Atwood reference would be lost on most of the people there… but that didn’t stop me from excitedly explaining to everyone that it was a recipe inspired by The Year of the Flood.

Martine's Marinated Mushroom MedleyThis month’s event was hosted by Ann Marie, who you may know from her blog Let’s Give Peas a Chance. She and her partner Anthony had us over to their beautiful rooftop deck for a sunny late-afternoon trade. She played perfect hostess with eats and drinks, and even had a raffle!

homemade trade club raffleAs everybody trickled in, the tables filled up with jars and bags of mouthwatering goodies.

homemade trade club spreadThe trading was fierce. I uttered the word “dangit!” more than once. Somehow I missed out on both the pumpkin butter and the apple butter, which makes my autumn-loving heart hurt.

That said, I can’t complain a lick about what I did bring home.

homemade trade club haulChai tea mix, grapefruit simple syrup, two jars of purple sauerkraut, harissa, P.H.A.T. (Pretty Healthy and Tasty) Pancake Mix, butterscotch sauce, and Pumpkin Pie Black IPA.

Yurrssssss.

Our next meeting is in December, and I. Can’t. Wait.

Roasted and caramelized autumn quinoa

Potlucks can be risky for vegetarians and vegans in mixed groups. You might be tempted to make a dessert or appetizer, either to try a fun new recipe you’ve been eyeing or to save a bit of money over buying the ingredients for a main dish. Then you get there and realize the main dishes ended up all being meaty and you eat a dinner comprised of potato chips and cookies, maybe with a few leaves of salad if you’re lucky.

So last Sunday when I realized I had a potluck to go to in a few hours that I had completely forgotten to plan for, I knew I needed to make something quick but hearty — just in case.

Quinoa salads fit the bill. Quick, high protein, filling, delicious, and infinitely adaptable based on what you put in it.

Since it’s autumn, I wanted something with rich, roasted flavors. Without spending all day on it.

Cue my freezer. Low and slow caramelized onions and roasted garlic bring this quinoa’s flavor to the next level, and luckily I had both stashed in my freezer. If you don’t have these items ready to go, this dish will take a little bit longer to make, but it’s the perfect opportunity to make extra to freeze. (I flash freeze my roasted garlic as individual cloves spread out on a baking sheet, then put them in a labeled freezer bag. I freeze my huge batch of caramelized onions in 1/2 cup portions, then again, put all of the portions in one labeled freezer bag. Seriously though, freeze some caramelized onions.)

Roasted butternut squash and fresh chard and thyme round out the garlic and onion into a hearty, veggie-filled, protein-packed dish that can be served warm, at room temperature, or chilled. This makes it perfect for potlucks as you don’t have to worry about serving it at a particular temperature. If you’re eating it at home, enjoy it slightly warmed when the air is crisp, and chilled when you just wish it would get crisp already.

roasted and caramelized autumn quinoaRoasted and Caramelized Autumn Quinoa

Serves 4 to 6 as a main dish

1/2 a medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed *
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
1/2 cup caramelized onions (from about 1 large onion, use only olive oil for vegan dish)
10-12 cloves roasted garlic
1 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cup water
2-3 fresh chard leaves, stems removed sliced into ribbons
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves stripped from woody stalks
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Toss butternut squash cubes with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Spread in an even layer on a baking sheet (lined with a Silpat if desired to ease cleanup). Bake for 30-40 minutes until pieces are slightly browned and fork-tender. Set aside to cool.

If you do not have roasted garlic ready to go, bake it at the same time as your squash. Cut off the tip of the head of garlic to expose the cloves inside the paper skin. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil, then wrap in a square of aluminum foil. Throw it on the pan with the squash and it’ll be good to go at the same time.

Put quinoa in a mesh strainer and rinse with plenty of cool water to avoid having a bitter taste to your cooked quinoa. Add 1 teaspoon olive oil to a medium pot over medium heat. Add rinsed quinoa and toast, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes. Add water, then cover and lower the heat to the lowest possible setting. Simmer for 15 minutes. Then remove the pot from heat without uncovering and let sit 5 minutes more. Remove lid and fluff with a fork.

Let quinoa cool slightly, then stir in caramelized onions. Properly caramelized onions should melt right in and become almost imperceptible. Fold in the chard, which will then be lightly cooked from the steam from the warm quinoa.

Fold in butternut squash, garlic, and thyme. Taste, then add salt and pepper as desired. Serve warm, room temperature, or cold. Garnish with thyme sprigs.

* Note: wear gloves when you’re prepping the butternut squash to avoid the difficult-to-remove drying residue on your hands.