Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Butternut Squash

Have you ever tried to cut a butternut squash? It’s as awkward to cut as it is delicious to eat and when I attempt to cut the same, I am fairly certain that I will sacrifice a small limb. For this reason, I usually opt for the handy-dandy butternut squash cubes that Trader Joe’s conveniently sells…in a hermetically (ok, maybe this is an exaggeration) sealed plastic bag. Yes, this is indeed an avoidance proclivity because I really should learn how to properly (and safely) dismantle this bulbous beauty, but, quite honestly, I have already mastered the art of opening a plastic bag and why jeopardize the obliteration of a useful skill? Unless, of course, the bagged version is not available.

Where’s my sharp knife?

And cutting board?

It was my turn to cook, and as you may have guessed, I decided to make something that included butternut squash….Barley Risotto with Caramelized Butternut Squash. This was very easy to make and to give it extra flavor, I added some chopped fresh rosemary and sage from my herb containers.

So, here is how you cut a butternut squash…

First, cut the ends off of both sides and then cut the bulb from the longer cylindrical piece.

Next, use a vegetable peeler to peel both the bulb and the longer piece. Cut the bulb in half and scoop the seeds and the membranes out.

Cut the longer piece in half and cube both ends into the desired size.

That wasn’t so bad!

I caramelized the butternut squash in some olive oil and butter and a tiny bit of sugar and set them aside….they should still be a little crunchy. Next, I sautéed ½ of a sweet onion in olive oil until translucent. To the same pot, I added 4 cups of chicken stock and 1 tablespoon each of finely chopped rosemary and sage. I brought that to a boil and added a whole box of quick barley and the caramelized butternut squash (to allow it to cook through). I turned the heat down simmered for 10 minutes, then I removed it from the heat, covered it and let it sit for 5 more minutes. Just before serving I added some grated Parmesan cheese (any sturdy cheese would work nicely as well).

I served it with grilled chicken with a lemon-butter sauce (I’ll post this recipe later) and a salad of field greens, honeycrisp apples, fennel and Cotswold cheese tossed with pumpkin butter vinaigrette. Very tasty indeed. Oh…I usually tell you where I get my recipes…it is from my own test kitchen!

After dinner we sat on my back porch and enjoyed the breathtaking dusk sky and talked. Later, we knitted and watched GLEE with the youngsters …it was Britney Spears night and I am embarrassed to say that I was mildly entertained. Please don't tell anyone.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Maple Leaf Apple Pie Pops

To welcome autumn and because daughter and her BF were coming for Indian food, I decided to make a very adorable and yummy dessert…Apple Pie Pops. I saw the recipe in the current issue of Better Homes and Gardens and I just couldn’t resist making them!

2 large apples, finely chopped…I used Honeycrisp apples
¼ cup sugar
1tsp apple pie spiece
1 tsp lemon juice
Dash salt
1 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp water
2 rolled refrigerated pie crusts
10 chop sticks
1 egg, separated
2 tsp water
2 Tbsp of cinnamon sugar

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the apples, 1/2 cup of the sugar, lemon juice and apple-pie spice. Bring to a boil and simmer for a few minutes. Mix the cornstarch and water, then add to the apples. Stir and continue cooking until thick. Remove the apple mixture from the heat and set aside.

One at a time, unfold each sheet of pie dough and use a maple leaf cookie cutter shape to cut 7 leaves of dough from each (or use any shape you'd like!).

Place the first 7 cutouts on the cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Press a chop stick in the center of each leaf.

Place a scant tablespoon of apple filling in the center of each leaf. Wisk the egg white and 1 tsp of water together until frothy and use your finger to brush the mixture around the edge of each leaf.

Place the second set of dough leaves on top of the apple filling and pinch the dough together with a fork to seal each leaf pop.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and water, then brush it over the tops of the pops. Sprinkle cinnamon sugur over the pops. Poke one small in the center of each pop to vent the air a bit.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet.

And here you have Maple Leaf Apple Pie Pops! I served them with vanilla gelato...quite tasty!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Stop Following Me!

We’ve all searched for stuff on-line, right? Doesn’t it freak you out that when you search for, let’s say, a pair of shoes and then every time you log into your email account, or onto facebook, or maybe a dating site (I don’t know, I’m just saying), that those shoes are following you around…like “these boots were made for walkin” to all the places you e-visit. Turns out, those shoes really aren’t following you (imagine your surprise) the retailer is using an advertising technique called “ad re-targeting.” An article I found on American Express Open Forum explains that… “The idea is simple. When you visit a retailer’s or other advertiser’s website, it drops a cookie on your browser and the next time it sees you pop up on another site it loads an ad from that retailer. You’ve already expressed interest in that advertiser by visiting their site, so they retarget you whenever they can.” Well, I don’t know about you, but I will certainly sleep better knowing that some creepy pair of shoes (no matter how adorable) is not really following me around. Effective and perhaps brilliant marketing, but a bit stalkerish!

Not about cooking or knitting, I know, I just thought it was interesting.

We had dinner at the Architect’s house and she made Polenta with a Wild Mushroom Sauce….I had seconds – yikes!

Finely chop a small onion and sauté in 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Once the onions are soft and translucent, add 1 ½ lb mixed wild mushrooms…. portabella, cremini and shitake. After the mushrooms have released their juices, about 8-10 minutes, add one can of whole tomatoes with juice, parsley, garlic and thyme to taste. Add a bit of chicken broth if the sauce is too thick. In another pot heat 6 ½ cups chicken broth. Slowly add 2 ½ cups polenta meal. Stir with wire whisk until combined and the polenta pulls from sides of the pot, about 25 minutes. Serve by creating a well in the middle of the polenta and scoop mushrooms on top, sprinkle with parsley garnish. We also had a beautiful green salad with walnuts, goat cheese and the most delicious Honeycrisp apples. Lemon squares for dessert and, of course, red wine.

The foodie of the crew is knitting a beautiful vest….I can’t wait to see it when it’s done. I will post an update on my project next week.

Promise. Maybe.

Follow image from Digital Journal found on Google Images.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


As you know from previous posts, the foodie of the crew works at a local arts center that offers amazing classes and equally amazing exhibits.

One such exhibit opens this Sunday, September 19th...BRAD HOWE: Art in
An Exhibition of Moving Masterpieces. Even though I consider myself to be a creative sort, my work is prosaic compared to some of the work I have the good fortune to see each week at the center. Although indeed hokey, it is none-the-less functional, unless you count the sweater on which I am still working (and will post an update soon). Anyway, the exhibit that opens Sunday showcases the artist's mobiles....I am very anxious to see it.

Alexander Calder (1928 – 1976), considered the father of the mobile – he was an artist with some engineering training – has crafted some of the most highly recognized mobiles and a very famous example, Ghosts, hangs in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. As a matter of fact if you look down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway from the main Museum steps, one can see two other Calders…the statue of William Penn that sits atop of Philadelphia’s City Hall was sculpted by his grandfather, Alexander Milne Calder. The Swann Fountain in Logan Circle is the work of his father, Alexander Stirling Calder.

We had dinner at the foodie's house and she made ratatouille…a French word meaning to “mix up.” She roasted eggplant, zucchini, peppers, onions and mushrooms, diced them up and threw them in a huge (and lovely) Le Creuset pot with tomatoes, herb de provence, olive oil and garlic and simmered the mixture for 15 minutes. She served the melodious mixture over pasta with fresh basil and a slice of mozzarella. We also had a salad and, of
course, wine that, along with the “Italian Summer” cocktail (gin, ruby-red grapefruit juice, ginger syrup, fresh lime, a splash of tonic, and basil) we had before dinner were responsible for the stitches I dropped when I tried to knit...I should have known better.

As always, a delightful time…will post mobile photos after the exhibit.

Mobile image from

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Meatloaf 101 (Almost)

Tuesday was the first day of school in Swarthmore. I saw families taking the required photos of backpack clad children sporting new clothes and somewhat apprehensive and forlorn faces, waiting to welcome the trustworthy yellow school bus. A memory indeed! Well, now that summer is over, our Tuesday night dinners have resumed (hooray!), and I decided to serve meatloaf using the Martha Stewart’s recipe. It is chock full of vegetables and herbs and quite yummy, especially the next day on a sandwich with some mustard and cheese. This is Martha’s Mom, Mrs Kostyra’s recipe that has been Marthaized, I think.

We have already discussed the fact that Martha is one of my idols, and although, I am truly amazed by her domestic prowess, I don’t think she has an exclusive on originality or taste. Considering this, I often call upon my audacious instincts (such that they are) and resist following Martha’s instructions exactly (don’t tell her; she may harm me - God knows what skills she picked up in the pokey), so I am going to give it to you a bit customized, “a fairly good thing”, if you will. Also, I used about one-half of everything and the version below reflects those adjustments.

Almost Martha’s Meatloaf

Serves 4-6 (depending on how hungry everyone is and if you are serving men hearty eaters)
3 slices white bread, torn into pieces
1/3 pound each ground beef, pork and veal
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and cut into eighths
3 or 6 or 9 cloves of garlic (one can never use too much garlic)
2 stalks celery, cut into tiny pieces
1 carrot, peeled and grated
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon rosemary, chopped
¼ teaspoon of red pepper flakes
2 large eggs
½ cup ketchup
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 tablespoon coarse salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Glaze Mixture
2 tablespoons brown sugar
½ cup ketchup
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon rosemary

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place all meatloaf ingredients in a bowl using hands to mix well.

Shape into a loaf and place in a pan. Bake for 30 minutes then brush glaze mixture on and bake for 30 minutes more or until meat thermometer reads 160°. Let sit for 5 minutes before slicing.

This really is a yummy recipe. I served it with red potatoes mashed with sour cream, and an arugula and orange salad.

School Bus image from Google images.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

City of Angels

Sorry that I have not posted in a little while, dear readers, I was in Los Angeles this past week, and I have to say that I totally understand why some people gravitate west! Truly beautiful!

My work colleague and I spent the day we arrived in Pacific Palisades and Malibu. The Pacific coastline is as beautiful as it is contradictory with the convergence of crashing waves and the still but echoing mountains. We walked along the beach where we saw the hippest lifeguard stands eVeR and we stopped and got a latte at the local Starbucks …some things are just plain reliable!
We had a reservation to visit the Getty Villa where we were captivated by the most beautiful gardens, murals, and architecture…simply amazing. I felt like I was back in Italy and with good reason because The Getty Villa is a museum dedicated to the arts and cultures of ancient Greece and Rome. We headed back to downtown Los Angeles where we passed the intersection of Sunset Blvd. and Swarthmore Avenue and I was reminded that the Swarthmore Avenue with which I am more familiar is not nearly as sexy as this intersection with its clay roofs, palm trees, and mountain backdrop.

We had dinner at Ciudad, the Downtown LA restaurant of chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, Food Network’s "Too Hot Tamales". We feasted, tapas style, on "seductive and authentic" dishes from South America, Central America, Cuba, Spain, and Portugal. I had a potato and beet soup, a spinach empanada, and a fried peach and field green salad…oh, and a Mo-Tini, (Mojito-Martini) that knocked me on my ass!

On Monday night, it was off to Dodger Stadium where the Dodgers were playing the Phillies! The Phillies lost, but we had a blast eating our Dodger Dogs, drinking local beer and participating in the beach ball antics that are popular, but somewhat disruptive, at Dodger Stadium. The Dodger pitcher, Hiroki Kuroda, had a no-hitter going into the 6th inning, until a wayward beach ball floated onto the field…this not only stopped play, but some think the pitcher lost his groove because Shane got a hit immediately following the beach ball incident. Sorry Hiroki

Although I returned with a nasty cold, I also returned with some wonderful photos, great memories, and one more baseball stadium checked off my list! A delightful way to mix business with pleasure!