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Posts Tagged ‘butternut squash’

Chilly or not, the view from the deck was so alluring this morning that I pulled on my warm fuzzy socks, tossed a throw around my shoulders, and had a cup of coffee outside.

I started out for my walk while the low-lying clouds quite prevalent in the early morning were still hovering over the lake. Chillier than usual, I came back in for a jacket and, eyeing my camera on the counter, on a whim hung it around my neck.

There was no hint of a breeze, but definitely it was cool enough to find myself pulling my jacket closer around me from time to time. I passed no one and no one passed me for the hour I was gone, other than a fat gray squirrel cheeks puffed with whatever treasure he was hauling back to his nest. For a moment, he stopped and looked at me with curiosity. Then, apparently not finding me noteworthy, scurried under the fence and up the side a tree trunk.

Faithfully I walk 2 miles every other day. This, both for how much better I feel when I do as well as trying to whittle off that ten pounds that I gained after I quit smoking. Blessed with a high metabolism and some appropriate genes when it comes to weight I’ve been thin most of my adult life. Up until eight months ago when I puffed my last puff, I ate pretty much what I wanted to. Not a sweet eater particularly, nor a big snacker I stayed within a pound or two of the same number on the scale from day to day. Sadly, those days are gone. Even if I could manage to get the zipper up on my favorite size 4 jeans, there would be more of me out of them then in I’m afraid, and it would take the jaws of life and four EMT’s to get them unzipped again. Sigh.

The holidays are looming and I just want to make sure that the size 6 jeans aren’t sitting in the same donation pile as the size 4’s by the time I reach the new year. To this end, I have signed on the dotted line at a local gym. Let me be the first to say that other than fun sports like water skiing, swimming, and walking, I would rather gnaw off my own big toe than enter an exercise program. However, it seems vanity has taken the lead in this internal fight and I find that I want to wear my fun holiday clothes without having them look like glittery sausage casings. So, hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work out I go.

Thanksgiving being less than two weeks away, and recognizing my passion for stuffing, I saw no choice but to write the check for gym membership and bite the bullet. Truly, a gun to my head, I would throw out the bird, and sit in the corner with a mixing bowl of stuffing and a large spoon. At our house we make “day after sandwiches”, or so we refer to them, that include turkey, stuffing, thinly sliced jellied cranberry, light mayo and salt and pepper. Quite often I’ll have them for breakfast. Perhaps this year I’ll have my other half put a padlock on the refrigerator door or put one of those gadgets inside that emits oinks every time you open it.

I’m cooking this year. I’ve already started early shopping so as to avoid finding myself sitting twelve deep in line carrying one tub of whipped cream at the last minute. For me, doing as much as I can ahead of time and freezing it works best. That way, when my guests arrive I don’t spend the entire day wearing my apron.

For a change of pace from sweet potatoes, give this a try. It’s lighter but has a lovely flavor.

Spicy Mashed Butternut Squash with Meringue

Butternut Squash

3 lbs. butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 Tbsp. butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. group ginger
1 Tbsp. good bourbon (optional)

Topping

4 egg whites
1 7 oz. jar marshmallow cream
Chopped toasted pecans

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Toss squash with olive oil, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Place on baking sheet and roast for 30 mins. or until fork tender.

In food processor puree 1/2 of the squash until smooth. In large mixing bowl mash the remaining 1/2 of the squash until chunky consistency. Mix in pureed squash.

Heat butter, cream, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger in small saucepan until butter has melted and mixture has begun to steam. Add bourbon. Heat 2 mins. longer. Combine cream mixture with squash mixture.

Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees. Pour squash mixture into a 2 quart baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Whip egg whites with hand mixer on med. speed until soft peaks form, about 2 mins. Gradually add marshmallow creme, beat until stiff peaks form and meringue has a glossy finish, about 5 mins. longer.

Mound meringue on top of squash. Use spoon to create peaks. Bake 4-5 mins. in oven until peaks are golden brown. Sprinkle with pecans.

As a note, it helps to use a potato peeler to peel the squash. 8 servings.

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Boo, our oldest cat, has a fascination with the laundry room.  Lulled by sounds of the machines going through their cycles, she spends hours on the mat by the washer and dryer lying in the warm sun.  Who can begin to understand the machinations of a cat’s mind?  I’ve certainly given up trying.  At any rate, Boo seems to have somewhat of a laundry fetish. She helps me when I put clean sheets on the bed by getting under them and slithering about looking like a mole digging a tunnel and when the dryer goes off she climbs in and out of it hiding in the warm clothes.  Sigh.  I’m overrun with felines these days and understaffed.Yesterday I caught up on laundry that had accumulated from our trip.  Loads went in and loads went out of my machines for most of day.  Cats, curious about everything in their world, have a fascination with open doors.

Several years ago, my hands full, I left the door ajar on the refrigerator.  Returning shortly to close it I found Boo perched on the bottom shelf finishing off the tuna casserole from the previous night’s dinner. In similar form, I shut the door on her in the dryer yesterday and fortunately heard a muffled “meow” before I hit start and signed her up for an unscheduled spin and fluff.

Laundry, even for two people, can accumulate faster than pimples on a teenage face.  I just get it all folded and put away and before I can say “dryer sheets” there’s a new pile of it. Sometimes I wonder if my other half is secretly getting paid by the pound to take in our neighbor’s laundry, or if it just breeds like virus in a petri dish reproducing in the middle of the night.  Sheets get washed weekly at our house.  Clean sheets are mandatory for me. There’s something, to me at least, luxurious about crawling into bed on clean, fresh smelling linen. My other half and I celebrate “clean sheet day” on Saturdays, which should give you a strong indication of the pitiful state of our social life at the moment.

As I’ve mentioned previously, I answered to Mrs. when addressed for the first time at eighteen.  I was, quite truly, green as a gourd.  My mother, the ultimate perfectionist when it came to  the house, didn’t encourage my participating in a lot of chores, etc., because, although she never verbalized it, I think she thought I would most probably screw it up and it could only end badly. I’m not arguing there may be a viable track for that train of thought, I’m just saying.  Consequently, marriage to me was a fuzzy romantic notion of a couple dancing in the moonlight and sipping champagne out of delicate crystal flutes.  There was little room in my girlish imagination for sweaty socks, dirty underwear or dinner dishes.  No one was more astounded than I to discover I was expected to maintain the laundry, and more ludicrous by far that the kitchen was suddenly considered to be my domain.  The presumption, as I understood it, was I was to produce something suitable for consumption with the tools provided for me by the guests at my wedding. What idiot came up with that idea?  Back in those days I could ruin a perfectly innocent piece of Wonder bread by simply inserting it in the toaster and pushing down the handle.  Allowing me in the kitchen as a novice should have been a misdemeanor, punishable by having to eat the end result without a physician in attendance.

If the kitchen escaped me during that first year, certainly encroaching motherhood, an unexpected surprise after three months as newlyweds, struck me silent.  For those of you who know me on a personal level, you will acknowledge this is a strong statement.  Aside from struggling to grasp the difference between a clove of garlic and a flower, which I might add until you do can make for some seriously pungent chili, the laundry as well was still shrouded in mystery.  Hot or cold, whites or colors, what about tan?  I had questions.  In the beginning I dyed all my husbands underwear a lovely shade of pink.  It seemed putting a wine colored tablecloth in with them was not the established program to keep them bright white.  Soon after when our washer was on the blink, I went to the laundromat and loaded all his shirts in the washing machine. Having other things to do, I went back home and set the timer for the length of the wash cycle.  Returning at the appropriate time, I found the washers standing open and all his clothes missing. Needless to say the news that his wardrobe had pared down to two shirts and a drawer full of Chartreuse underwear did not make for pleasant dinner conversation that evening. But we endured. Two children, one born a year after the other and lack of affordable maid service, there was no option but to learn how to run a house.

My oldest granddaughter is now the first of the nine we share to find herself out of the nest, and discovering that she too seems to have been handed the apron. I’m going down in a couple of weeks to give her the “Joy of Cooking” my father-in-law gifted me after a particularly unfortunate meat loaf experience at our house in the early days.

My daughter-in-law shared this recipe. This soup is so delicious and presents itself beautifully on the table. Perfect for holiday entertaining.

Scallop and Butternut Squash Bisque

Scallops

12 sea scallops, washed and muscle removed
3 oz. pancetta
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground allspice

Soup

1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. fresh sage, minced
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 cup dry white wine
2 8 oz. bottles clam juice
2 cups chicken broth
8 cups butternut squash, cut in 1″ cubes
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Saute pancetta in large Dutch oven over med. heat until crisp. Drain on paper towels reserving drippings. Set pancetta aside.

Combine 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. black pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice in shallow dish.

Thoroughly coat each scallop with spice mix and set aside.

Sear scallops in reserved pancetta drippings in Dutch oven on both sides just until a crust has formed from the spice mixture, about 2 mins. per side. Drain on paper towels. Set aside.

In same Dutch oven sweat onion, garlic, sage and pepper flakes until onion is softened and garlic is fragrant, about 5 mins.

Deglaze pan Dutch oven with white wine scraping bits from bottom of pan. Simmer until wine is nearly evaporated. Add clam juice, broth, and squash. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and partially cover. Simmer until squash is tender, about 25 mins.

Let cool slightly. Puree in food processor until smooth consistency. Return to Dutch oven.

Finish soup with heavy cream and parsley flakes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Ladle into 4 shallow bowls. Top with 3 scallops on each bowl and sprinkle with pancettta pieces. Serves 4.

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