My counter is full of squash. Acorn. Butternut. Spaghetti. All rolling around and teeter-tottering about like vegetable weeble wobbles. Squash was not meant to lay about on a countertop. I fear that they will eventually end up cracked and splattered on the floor before I find the time and energy to create a dish that would be eatable …
I don’t mind the squash on my countertop as they are my only fall decorations…I bet my CSA didn’t know they were providing a bedecking service once they started harvesting squash. Perishable decorations however at some point in time need to be eaten. I don’t have many dishes to hide squash in…and yes, I hide squash. There is the ever so popular mac and cheese or the fancy schmancy butternut squash risotto, both of which claim to be crowd pleasers. I am not sure about just eating it roasted because I have this misconception that it should be as sweet as a sweet potato, but it isn’t and it never will be. And therefore, I need to load up the vegetable with butter and brown sugar, and while I see very little wrong with this picture, I feel like I am pushing squash to be something it isn’t. A sweet potato. You see, they may have similar color…but no go on the level of sugar. If the vegetable is bright orange, I have a level of sweetness that I inherently connect with it…sweet potatoes, sweet. Carrots, sweet. Yams, sweet. Butternut squash, not sweet. So upsetting! So, over the years I have had quite a few of so-called failed dishes because they missed the flavor bullseye in my brain because I was hoping for a bit of sweetness when I should have been striving and expecting a savory end result…my mistake. I am in the midst of reshaping my thinking. Altering my taste buds. Maturing if you will.
So, with this in mind…and more squash expected in this weeks CSA and a lack of any more counter space for fall decorations, and a craving for comfort in a bowl…I went in search of a decent soup recipe. I knew going in, the basics of a butternut squash soup. I knew how to roast the squash. I knew how to saute my onion and garlic. I knew how to add chicken stock and bring it to a boil. I knew how to puree until smooth. I knew to add cream at the end. I knew to top with chopped chives and a dollop of crème fraîche. I, however, needed help with the spices. Deb of Smitten Kitchen to the rescue. And come to find out…cumin, ginger, thyme, and sage are exactly what you need. Que Simon and Garfunkel. She is genius. But I already knew that and I am betting you did too.
So with the right spices on board and a change in mind-set from sweet to savory…I made a bowl of roasted butternut squash soup that was quite enjoyable and necessary on Saturday as the cold rain fell and we curled up on the couch and settled in for a day of sweatpants and Netflix.
And seriously, the parmesan crisps are a must and take literally 6 minutes to whip up…maybe 8 if you are grating your own cheese, which huge props to you…I have a tendency to buy pre-shredded parmesan cheese because I abhor shredding cheese of any kind and plus I like to snack on parmesan cheese throughout the day…a pinch here and a pinch there…talk about salty goodness.
- 1 Butternut Squash – medium in size
- 1 Acorn Squash
- 4 Tablespoons Butter
- 1 Sweet Onion, small dice
- 4 Cloves Garlic, minced
- 2½ to 3 Cups Chicken Broth
- 1+1/2 Teaspoon Sage finely chopped
- 1+1/2 Teaspoon Thyme finely chopped
- 1+1/2 Teaspoon ground Cumin
- ½ Teaspoon ground Ginger
- ¼ Cup Heavy Cream (or half and half)
- chives (optional)
- Creme Fraiche or Sour Cream (optional)
- Parmesan Crisps
- 2 Tablespoons Freshly grated Parmesan per crisp.
- Preheat oven to 400F.
- Cut butternut squash and acorn squash in half, length wise. With a sturdy knife, slice off top of squash close to stem. Scoop out seeds and membranes. Lay face up on a tinfoil lined baking sheet and roast for about 30 to 45 minutes, until fork tender. Remove from oven and let cool. Once cool, scoop out the squash flesh and place in bowl, set aside.
- In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and garlic, saute until translucent. About 10 minutes.
- Add chicken broth, cooled squash flesh, sage, thyme, cumin, and ginger. Bring to a simmer and let cook for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Working in small batches, transfer soup to a blender and puree until smooth, transferring pureed soup back into original pan. Once all the soup is pureed, stir in cream and salt and pepper to taste. (if the soup is too thick, stir in a bit more broth until desired consistency is reached…I like a thicker soup, so I used only 2 +1/2 cups) Bring soup to a simmer over low heat and prepare parmesan crisps.
- Preheat oven to 425F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Neatly mound 2 tablespoonfuls of grated parmesan cheese per crisp on lined baking sheet 3 inches apart. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes until edges are browned and centers are bubbly. Remove from oven and let cool. These are best slightly warm or at room temperature.
- Serve soup with a dollop of creme fraiche, chopped chives, and a parmesan crisp or two.
I had a day off during the week.
Glorious. Delicious. Relaxing. Exciting….kind of like skipping class, but without the consequences.
No alarm clock mid – week…whatttt? Yeah, kind of awesome. Lazy mornings that leak into mid-afternoon…my sweatpants are quite versatile, they can take me from pre-dawn to late afternoon…it is all in the accessories. Trade off those slippers with socks and you are golden.
My mid-week day off was in exchange for weekend work. I get two of these days once a month…which means I have to work one weekend a month. In the world of pharmacy…this is a pretty good gig. People still get sick after 5pm on Fridays… Weekends happen. But days off during the week are a great exchange if you ask me…Now if you had this whole being an adult thing down, you would schedule eye/dental/doctor/hair/etc appointments or do whatever it is adults do on their days off…clean? Organize closets? Prep a whole week worths of dinner? Fold laundry? I don’t know…but I don’t do those things until I have to….
No, I do zero of those above mentioned things… I lounge in sweatpants, watch endless amounts of Netflix and Hulu, drink coffee until late afternoon, catch up on my Google Reader, and spend the entire morning thinking of what to make for lunch. I have time to make a kick ass lunch…a lunch not found in a brown paper sack or in my case, my purse…I just toss things in as I am walking out the door every morning…apple, yogurt, a box of soup from Trader Joe’s that will last me all week…all fits in my purse, no paper sack needed. Saving the earth, one lunch at at time.
I had cheese on the brain this go around. And bacon. And was craving a favorite pizza combo. I had hearty crusty bread. Ranch, check. Leftover roasted chicken, always. It was destiny.
Let’s make a day off grilled cheese. The best kind.
Buttered crusty bread. Ranch. Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese. Chicken. Bacon.
Done. Done. Done. Done. And. Done.
Step 1: Slather the non-buttered side of bread with ranch.
Step 2: Cheese.
And A LOT of it.
Step 3: Leftover Roast Chicken
Step 4: BACON!!!
Step 5: Even more cheese.
Step 6: Ranch slathered bread.
People, this is a masterpiece.
Step 7: Grill it. Or panini press it.
Step 8: Admire the masterpiece.
A tad cocky, perhaps. But this sandwich was AAAHHHMAAZZZING.
Step 9: Sit back, put your slipper/sock clad feet up, flip on some Friday Night Lights, and enjoy your mid-week kick ass lunch.
You earned it.
That morning was rough.
- 2 Slices thick cut crusty bread.
- 3 Slices Bacon, cut in half so you have 6 pieces of bacon
- 2-3 Tablespoons Ranch Dressing
- 2 Tablespoons Butter
- 3-4oz. Leftover Roasted Chicken, thinly sliced
- 1-2oz. Extra Sharp Cheddar, thinly sliced
- Extra Ranch Dressing for dipping – if you are like me and LOVE ranch.
- Cook bacon in a skillet over medium heat until crispy. Transfer bacon to a papertowel lined plate (to drain excess grease) and drain off grease. If you do not have a panini press (join the club!), use this skillet to make the grilled cheese.
- Butter one side of each slice of bread.
- Take one slice of bread, butter side down and slather the other side of the bread with 1 tablespoon of ranch dressing (or a tad bit more if you like). Place half of the cheese on top of the ranch. Layer on chicken and bacon. Top with remaining cheddar cheese.
- Slather remaining slice of bread with remaining ranch dressing and place atop the cheese, ranch side down, butter side up.
- Place sandwich on panini press and cook until bread is golden brown and cheese is melty. If you do not have a panini press, do not fret. Place non-stick skillet over medium heat. Transfer sandwich to skillet and cook until bread becomes golden brown and the cheese begins to melt. Carefully flip sandwich and cook the other side of the sandwich until golden brown. You may need to place a heavy pan atop the sandwich when you are grilling it, to smash it down a bit – helps stick it all together. I used a square pyrex dish.
- Remove from skillet, slice in half, and enjoy immediately.
If some how or some way, I was left, stranded on a deserted island with only water and crackers to drink and eat for the rest of my life (or until rescue)…I would be A-OK with this meal plan. I LOVE crackers and while I would prefer iced tea or maybe Diet Coke, water would be suitable on a deserted island. Suppose the deserted island would be supplied with sun block? I’d die of sunburn before thirst.
But crackers…crackers would actually be a top 3 food if given the choice. I have to hide them from myself, on shelves in which I would need a step stool to even catch a glimpse of them ( I am fair skinned and short)…they sit next to the nut butters. I have issues. I used to eat sleeves of Townhouse as a child. Clubhouse are my favorite. Ritz are best for soups.Read More
Ever feel like you are just one step behind, just a little late. I think I am perpetually meant to be one step behind, I mean, I am kind of good at it. Getting to the party just a little past fashionably late. Where you sneak in and close the door quietly behind you so that the party in the next room isn’t disrupted and so that you can sneak in without being truly noticed, because you don’t enjoying being the center of anything. You slip your shoes off and place them next to a pair of wedges that you take notice of and quickly snag a glance at the designer/brand and make a quick mental note to add those to your wish list and wonder/hope if they are still available in your size. You take quick inventory of your socks, praying there are no holes and that they are matching. You toss your jacket and scarf over an empty chair and slip ever so quietly into the background of the party, scanning and searching for a friendly familiar face.
This one step behind phenomenon is kind of ironic, seeing how I am one of the most punctual people I know. I learned early on that to be early is on time, on time is to be late, and to be late is to be left behind. This may have pertained to team sports and practice and bus schedules and wasn’t meant to be a life lesson, but it has stuck with me.
I have gotten used to showing up to the party a bit late….I am just glad I get to the party, safe and sound.
So when I discovered the glories of grits, I just assumed I was probably the last to figure this out. And I think I am. The grit party started hours ago and here I am, sneaking in…trying to pretend that I have been here from the start. But I haven’t and that is OK…it doesn’t matter when you show up, just that you do. So here I am…tying on my party hat, grabbing a cocktail, and joining in on the party.
- 4 Cups Water
- 1 Cup Stone Ground Grits (or polenta)
- Salt and pepper
- 2 Cups Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
- 3 Tablespoons Butter
- ⅓ Cup Whole Milk
- 1 Pound Shrimp, peeled,deveined, tails removed
- 6 Strips Thick Cut Bacon, chopped
- 2 Bunches of green onions, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
- 2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
- 2 Cloves Garlic, minced
- 4 teaspoons Lemon Juice (from a lemon shaped bottle is fine)
- In a medium sauce pan, bring the water to a boil. Add 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Stir in grits and whisk to combine. Reduce temperature to low. Cook for about 20 minutes (or according to package directions) until water is absorbed and the grits have thickened. Remove from heat and stir in butter, milk, and cheese.
- Meanwhile, rinse shrimp and pat dry.
- Fry the bacon in a large skillet until crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon onto a plate lined with paper towel. Set aside.
- Discard all but 3 to 4 tablespoons of bacon grease. Add shrimp to bacon grease and cook until shrimp turn pink (just a few minutes).
- Add bacon, green onions, parsley, garlic, and lemon juice. Cook for about 3 more minutes.
- Serve the shrimp over a healthy helping of grits. Serve immediately.
adapted slightly from Bobby Flay
I had a goal this weekend of finishing my Christmas shopping, but instead I spent it with friends…which was way way way better. I probably would have taken any invitation to do or go anywhere…anything to keep me away from the mall and the horrid Christmas crowds.
Saturday I went to an old factory in Lakewood …Today it is referred to as The Screw Factory but its original purpose was to house the production of automobiles and did so from 1918 to 1924. It is one of those 3 or 4 story brick buildings with a million glass windows…a nearly century old brick building that looks worn out form time and abandoned by life. The floors are wooden and scarred and bruised. I noticed the floors and fell in love with them….just plain ole worn out, it just gets me. And the windows….so much glass, covered with dust and time. Windows that allow fantastic filtered natural light to stream into each art studio…which is what the old factory now contains. Individual art studios fill the empty space, giving it a new purpose. Breathing life into old.
It is also a space to hold a one day only event where local craftsmen/women are able to come and present and sell their goods/art/jewelry/jam….
Last Minute Market. Have you ever shopped on Etsy? I am sure you have…Last Minute Market was like a pop-up Etsy shop. It was awesome, seeing how I spend a lot of my time searching the pages of Etsy for unique jewelry, handbags, and art…this was just the place for me. While I didn’t buy anything, mainly because I couldn’t decide on which copper/turquoise necklace I wanted, it was awesome to see all the talent that is in and around Cleveland.
And did I mention the old wood floors? I think I might have. I want old floors. So much cozier and warm and inviting than shiny freshly polished wood floors. I like old things. Things that are slightly tarnished with time and experience. Scratches and dents that tell a story.
OK, enough about old buildings and floors. And enough about Christmas shopping, or the lack there of. How about dinner?
A quick dinner is needed this time of year. A hot, grilled sandwich has been on my menu these past few weeks. Between work, Christmas parties, cookie swaps, and late night shopping…who has time to cook?
But I bet you have an apple, sliced turkey, a bit of cheese, grainy mustard, and some crusty bread. Staple items that, when thrown together, makes for a quick dinner on the go. One that is filling and feels a tad bit luxurious. Way better than any take-out or hot sandwich from Panera.
In a hot cast iron skillet (or any skillet, really, but read how I like old things…cast iron skillets totally fall into that category…even though I bought mine from Target…it feels old, and that is what counts)….in this skillet, layer bread, buttered side down, mustard, cheese, apple, turkey, apple, cheese….that simple.
Top it with another slice of buttered bread. Don’t get skimpy on the butter…it is winter, we are wearing sweaters. More butter is allowed.
Flip it when it is toasty and brown and the cheesy starts to melt. This sandwich is no joke.
Slice in half … even if you have no intention of sharing, which I don’t recommend. Who shares cheesy melty toasted grilled sandwiches? No matter how much I say I like you or even love you…you will never get half of my sandwich. I will show you to the kitchen…I might even make you your own, but sharing mine? Not gonna happen.
- 2 Slices of thick cut crusty bread ( sourdough is great)
- 1 Tablespoon Grainy Dijon Mustard
- 2 Teaspoons Unsalted Butter
- 2 Ounces Gouda Cheese, thinly sliced
- ½ Apple, cored and thinly sliced (granny smith)
- 3 to 4 Slices Turkey (deli or roasted)
- Heat skillet over medium-low heat.
- Spread half of the butter on one side of each slice of bread. Place one slice of bread in heated skillet, buttered side down. Spread half of dijon mustard on the side of bread that is facing up.
- Layer half of the cheese and sliced apples onto the dijon mustard followed by the turkey slices. Then layer the remaining apple and cheese on top of the sliced turkey.
- Spread the remaining dijon mustard on the second slice of bread and place bread, mustard side down, onto the sandwich. Buttered side will be facing up.
- Cook sandwich on medium low heat until bread becomes lightly toasted and golden brown and the cheese begins to melt. About 5 to 8 minutes per side. If the bread begins to brown too fast, reduce temperature.