Crazed Chef Craves Squash (really!)

Things have been a little hectic here in the Meadballs kitchen. Big news is that I am finally certified. This seemed liked the hugest hurdle back in the spring. But when the day finally came on Friday, Aug. 4, it really was just he beginning. Because of three things:

  • Most of my pots and pans didn’t work with induction. So I had to buy new ones.
  • I have to wash dishes now. (Dishwasher not in the budget).
  • The ventilation project wasn’t totally finished.

The last is probably the biggest issue because it is August. And while it has been pretty chill so far, it isn’t all that cool in my basement digs with three fridges, two freezers, two ovens, and three induction cooktops going. Sometimes all at once. So the electrician returned to install a big fan, some vents in the ductwork and a cooler for the wine room. As a result, my shiny new kitchen is a mess of dust, dirt, power saws, and electrical things. It is loud and dirty. So I haven’t been in the kitchen much since I picked up my lovely certificate.

But, never fear, it should all be done by tomorrow morning and I’ll be cooking away. If you have signed up for my newsletter – there is a sign-up on this website – you will find the specials for next week. They will also be posted on the Meadballs Meals facebook page. Order by e-mailing marnie@meadballs.com, messaging me on Facebook, or by texting 814.470.8688. Orders need to be received by Sunday at noon for Monday delivery.

In the meantime, I’ve been in my home kitchen working with what to do with a truckload of yellow squash. I love this bread with blueberries. Don’t skip the glaze, it makes the cake and helps keep it fresh.

Print Recipe
Lemonade Blueberry Squash Bread
Course breakfast, dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
loaves
Ingredients
Course breakfast, dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
loaves
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease 2 regular loaf pans.
  2. Whisk together flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a large bowl.
  3. In another large or medium bowl, combine melted butter and sugar. Add lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla. Whisk in eggs.
  4. Add wet ingredients to dry. Mix thoroughly.
  5. Add squash and stir just to blend. Toss blueberries with the remaining flour. Add to mixture.
  6. Pour into prepared pans and bake at 325 degrees for 45 to 55 minutes.
  7. Allow the pan to cool; remove the bread and place top down on a serving plate.
  8. In the meantime, make the glaze by combining all the ingredients and mixing until smooth. Pour over top of bread.
  9. Serve.
Share this Recipe
 

Quiche it Simple During Lent

The Lenten season is upon us. This exercise in meatless Fridays sticks with me even though I am no longer a practicing Roman Catholic.

Culturally Catholic, I am. So the guilt about eating meat remains with me to this day.

Skipping meat on Fridays wouldn’t be that big a deal if I could serve the grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner. I love grilled cheese. Any cheese melted between two pieces of bread slathered in butter or olive oil is pure heaven.

Except my daughter doesn’t eat cheese. And she has a nose that can smell it several rooms away.

If I crave a melted cheese sandwich, I eat in the middle of the night when she is asleep. Then I burn candles to get the smell out of the house.

Sometimes I will order one when we are eating out for lunch. But she is relentless in her ongoing commentary about how much she hates cheese.

Yes, this is odd. I am the mom. It is my house. But when your child is on the autism spectrum, however mild, this isn’t a battle anyone is going to win.

Fortunately, she likes most vegetables. So on many meatless nights, it’s just a plate of roasted vegetables and pasta or rice.

But I’m trying to find add a little more protein to her diet, which would consist largely of chocolate and chips if left to her own devices. We eat a lot of chicken.

When Lent rolls around, it’s time to cook more creatively. We live just a couple of miles from a chicken farm, so we always have fresh eggs in the house. That means frittatas, quiches, and omelets.

The beauty of any of these is that you are free to improvise. Throw some spinach in for some extra veg, add or change a cheese, and use fresh herbs if you have them.

I keep a box or two of frozen pie crusts that I buy at Trader Joe’s in Cleveland on hand. It’s one of my favorite crusts, and it saves time.

Today, I had some extra smoked salmon, green onions, and potatoes. If I had baby kale, chard, or spinach, it would have gone in too. I was finished in less than 45 minutes. Plus the leftovers can do double duty for breakfast or lunch tomorrow.

This is #whatsfordinner tonight.

XOXOXO

marnie

marnie@meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Salmon, Dill, and Potato Quiche
This is an easy dish for dinner or lunch. Pair with a cucumber or green salad. Depending on appetites, and whether it is lunch or dinner, this can feed from 4-6 people.
Course dinner, Main Dish
Cuisine American, French
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course dinner, Main Dish
Cuisine American, French
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Roll out pie crust so it will fit into a 9-inch pie pan. Place crust into pie pan and trim off edges. Top crust with parchment and pie weights or beans. Place on baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Remove paper and beans and cook another 5 minutes.
  3. In the meantime, cook potatoes in salted boiling water until tender. Drain. Slice.
  4. Beat together the cream, eggs, dill, lemon zest, salt and pepper until the eggs are lighter and there is a bit of foam on top of the batter.
  5. Place cut potatoes over the bottom of the pastry. Then put half the salmon strips in the gaps. Sprinkle with half of the green onions. Pour over the egg mix.
  6. Bake for 25 mins until the top is firm. Allow to cool. This is best served at room temperature. Before serving, top with the remaining strips of salmon, some dollops of creme fraiche, sour cream, or yogurt. Sprinkle remaining green onions on top and some dill.
Share this Recipe

Bake Ahead for the Holidays

Trimming the tree. Holiday parties. Crazy schedules. All of these combine to make the month of December a blur and a challenge to get anything on the table for dinner.

I’ve always been a fan of having lasagna on hand. This is a trick I learned when babysitting for Ted and Denise Padden and their four children. She would have me come over and bake a big lasagna while watching the kids, and that would be dinner for at least two nights.

I don’t tend to make the big heavy meat lasagna anymore. Most of the time there aren’t enough people in my home to consume it. I could make and freeze half, but something about lasagna calls for lots of people around a table, a big salad, and some warm bread.

A few years ago I discovered how the Italians pair squash with pasta, including in lasagna. I enjoy the slightly sweet flavor of the roasted squash against the richness of the ricotta, especially when infused with sage or rosemary. Adding spinach to the basic bechamel sauce, adds color and another vegetable.

I made this recipe first for an early Thanksgiving feast and have made it again to try it with zucchini noodles instead of pasta. While I think the pasta version was better, the zucchini one has the benefit of being gluten free. To make the zucchini noodles, slice a zucchini length-wise in about 1/8-inch strips. Brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt. Roast in a 350-degree oven for about 5-7 minutes to remove the extra moisture and increase the sweetness of the zuke. If it is still a bit slippery (like a wet noodle), roast for another couple of minutes until it is slightly brown in areas. Then use just like the pasta. The number of noodles with depend on the size of your zucchini. If they are small, you might need one zucchini per layer, or six (6) in total.

Feel free to play with the squash. Butternut is slightly dry when roasted and sweet. Acorn squash has less flavor and is a bit damper. Hubbard or any of the slightly sweet and very orange varieties will do well. I tried it with acorn squash, because I have heaps of them in the garage, and can’t say it’s a favorite. It will do in a pinch.  But even better is just a 15-ounce can of pumpkin puree, which eliminates the whole roasting step. Plus it is just the right flavor. Just don’t use the pie filling!

You can freeze this dish and bring it out later in the holidays, either for a planned event or a family emergency.

Enjoy

XOXOXO

Marnie

marnie@marniemeadmedia.com

Print Recipe
Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagna
There are a lot of steps here, but if done ahead, the whole project comes together quickly. Like any lasagna, once you master the recipe, it will be much easier in the future. You are essentially roasting butternut squash and pureeing it for one layer. Making a standard bechamel, but adding spinach, for another. And finally having a ricotta filling. So it's not terribly different than the standard lasagna process. I would make some extra bechamel sauce, or a tomato sauce, to serve alongside. Mine got a little dry.
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 2 hours
Cook Time 75 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 2 hours
Cook Time 75 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. To prepare the butternut squash, heat oven to 375 degrees. Cut squash in half lengthwise; remove seeds. Rub inside with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place cut-side down on roasting pan. Roast for about 1 hour, or until soft. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Scoop out insides into a food processor and puree until smooth. Taste. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Can be refrigerated for two days.
  2. Caramelize the onions by placing in a hot saute pan with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and the two sprigs of thyme. Stir to coat in oil and cook until onions are soft and slightly brown, about 25 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. This can be made two days ahead of time and refrigerated. Remove thyme before adding to the lasagna.
  3. To make the ricotta filling, mix cheese, chopped rosemary, eggs, half the grated Parmesan, salt, and pepper to taste. This can be done 1 day ahead of time.
  4. To prepare the spinach, melt butter in a saucepan, add flour and stir. Cook until flour is no longer raw and the two have come together into a thick paste, about 2 minutes. Add milk or half-and-half and stir until it comes to a boil. Add the rest of the grated Parmesan, nutmeg, and defrosted and drained spinach. Season with salt and pepper. This can be made one day ahead.
  5. To assemble, coat a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Lay down about 1 cup of the spinach cream sauce on the bottom of the pan and spread to coat. Top with noodles.
  6. Spread half of the roasted butternut squash on top of the pasta. Top with another layer of pasta.
  7. Spread ricotta cheese mixture on top of pasta, and top with caramelized onion. Cover with layer of pasta.
  8. Top with remaining butternut squash, and another layer of pasta.
  9. Finish with remaining spinach cream sauce. Cover with foil.
  10. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 1 hour (60 minutes). Uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes.
  11. Remove from oven. Allow to rest for 30 minutes before serving.
  12. Can be frozen.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from the New York Times

Share this Recipe

Pumped for Pumpkin Season

img_4703I am unabashedly a fan of pumpkin in all things except hot drinks (PSL). I’ve made pumpkin brownies, cakes, pies, scones, cookies and chili.

My love affair began years and years ago when I baked my first pumpkin to make a pie. I wondered why I couldn’t just use a regular pumpkin to make pumpkin pie. I was young and there was no Internet then, so I used a regular pumpkin – the type you carve for jack-o-lanterns. Those carving pumpkins, however, aren’t for pies. They have a high water content and not much flavor.

As my baking experience developed, I learned about sugar pumpkin. This is smaller pumpkin with much more flavor than your Halloween variety. But, for reasons I didn’t understand, it didn’t match the flavor of what is in the can of pure “pumpkin.” Plus, I adore the fall Italian specialty of a pumpkin sauce, used over pasta and to make lasagna. But the Italian pumpkin I’ve tasted is much more flavorful than American pumpkin.

There are two reasons for this. The first is that Italian pumpkin isn’t the same as the American variety. It looks more like a Hubbard squash than a pumpkin.

And, it turns out that what’s in those cans of Libby’s pumpkin is actually Dickinson squash, according to various foodie news outlets. Indeed, according to the FDA’s own regulations,  any type of golden-fleshed orange-type squash may be labeled as pumpkin. This would explain why, even if you cook at sugar pumpkin, it still doesn’t have the taste and consistency of canned pumpkin. Anyone who has eaten a butternut squash, a close relative of the Dickinson squash, can tell you that it is sweeter than even a sugar pumpkin.

img_4685
Roasted butternut squash, bottom, and pumpkin, top.

So when my CSA includes both a sugar pumpkin and butternut squash, you can bet I cook them both up (cut in half, scoop out seeds and bake at 375 degrees for about 90 minutes to 2 hours or until a knife can easily pierce the squash). When they are cool enough, I scoop both out into a bowl and allow to finish cooking. You will find some water in the bottom (that’s usually from the sugar pumpkin), which I drain out. I then puree the two together and use that as my squash mixture for baking. If that sounds like too much work, just buy the canned pumpkin, but not the canned pumpkin pie mix. Why not the blend? Because I like to control the sugar and the spices that go into my food.

If you have a taste for pumpkin, you are probably craving those sweeter squashes, such as the Hubbard, Kabocha, or butternut.

The cooking times for these squash may make working with them tiresome, but you could also cook them in your slow cooker instead of the oven. I just discovered this for a butternut squash. There is no peeling, piercing, or attempting to split lengthwise while taking one of your fingers off.

Just put a whole butternut in your slow cooker, cover, and cook on low for 8 hours. Allow to cool, slice in half lengthwise, remove the seeds, and scoop out the flesh. It’s never been so easy or so good.

 

Enjoy squash season.

 

XOXOXO

Marnie

marnie@marniemeadmedia.com

 

Print Recipe
Pumpkin Gingerbread
Cook Time 55 minutes
Servings
loafs
Ingredients
Glaze
Cook Time 55 minutes
Servings
loafs
Ingredients
Glaze
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two loaf pans.
  2. To make the cake, cream butter, vegetable oil and sugar together in a large bowl.
  3. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, and crystalized ginger.
  4. In another bowl, combine eggs, molasses, pumpkin and pie spice.
  5. Mix in the flour and the squash into the creamed butter, alternating in thirds. So first, add one-third of flour mixture to creamed butter and combine until incorporated, Stir in one-third of pumpkin. Repeat with flour and pumpkin until all are mixed.
  6. Pour into loaf pans. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until tester comes out clean. If you make muffins, this will be about 17 to 20 minutes baking time.
  7. In the meantime, make the glaze by mixing the powdered sugar, butter, orange extract, cream, and salt.
  8. Remove pumpkin gingerbread from oven. Brush with glaze while still warm if you want a shiny finish. Allow to cool and drizzle over top for a white finish.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Share this Recipe