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.
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Counting Days to Meadballs Delivery

Just as the agricultural season is getting into full swing, so is construction on the new Meadballs kitchen. Indeed, just a week until the Erie County Department of Health inspection, and Meadballs will be open for business.

This week has been a flurry … but – and I find this hard to imagine – the most exciting thing is the concrete floor. Yes, I am excited about a concrete floor.

The kitchen space is a former playroom, which had Berber carpeting to keep the tiny knees from getting skinned. The the small noggins from bouncing off concrete. The carpeting added a bit of cushion.

The carpet has been gone for a couple of weeks, but today Advanced Concrete Floor put the design/paint/finish on. It looks spectacular. You may have seen the company’s work at Twig in the Colony Plaza.

Let me tell you, I had no idea concrete could be so beautiful. The final polyurethane finish comes tomorrow, but this is what it looks like now. It’s like Lake Erie met my basement in a good way.

There are bubbles, and waves, and sand … and it’s really cool.

On Monday, the equipment will be delivered. And then it is all about the plumbing and electrical. And I get to go shopping for things like spatulas, immersion blenders, and mixers. I expect to be moving in on Wednesday and Thursday in order to be ready on Friday.

That’s not all that’s going on. I’m still sampling in the market. Thank you to this week’s volunteers Karen Ducato and Jill Starr. Their input is appreciated. The logo bags should be arriving early next week to finish my look. Then, it’s time to start cooking for real.

This week at Post Apples CSA, the bags contained bok choy, collard greens, kale, zucchini, corn, Chinese cabbage, green beans, peppers, cucumber, and kohlrabi. I will be making more stuffed collard greens this week, along with some zoodles and meatballs, and some salads that I am still pondering. Nothing like a deadline to figure things out.

Speaking of which, my goal will be to post the week’s upcoming meals on Friday mornings. My goal is to have you contact me if you want in that week or be a subscriber. I’m working on a contact form that generates a notification to me – but the fastest and easiest way is to message me at 814.470.8688, e-mail marnie@meadballs.com, or contact me on the Meadballs Facebook page.

One of the highlights this week – other than the floor – was picking blueberries in North East at Conn’s Blueberry Farm. Took me about 90 minutes to pick 10 quarts. And 10 quarts of blueberries means pies, pies, and more pies.

 

I like this recipe because it isn’t all flour as a thickener. I am partial to tapioca starch or minute mini tapioca instead of all flour as a thickener. I also am a fan of the lattice top, so here’s an easy YouTube video that shows a hack on how to do it by making the lattice on parchment and then putting on the pie. Don’t forget to brush with egg and sprinkle with some turbinado sugar for a lovely finish.

My blueberries this year were a tad tart, which was fine with me. I don’t like an overly sweet pie. If you like your pies a little sweeter, I would suggest adding another tablespoon or 2 of sugar. But if you are going to serve your pie with ice cream, which is what I adore, then don’t add too much sugar or the combination with be more sweet than blueberry.

Happy eating

Marnie

Marnie@meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Blueberry Pie
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
slices
Ingredients
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
slices
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees (400 if you have a convection oven). Take one crust out of the fridge. Give it about 10 minutes before you try to roll it out, or unroll it if it is a premade rolled crust.
  2. Place the crust into bottom of 9-inch pan. Trim any excess hanging over the edge. Place in the refrigerator while you complete the rest of the steps. If you have a premade crust, then take the second one out of the fridge to get the chill off so you can easily place it over the blueberries to top the pie, or cut into a lattice if you desire.
  3. In a large bowl, mix blueberries, lemon zest, lemon juice, thickener, sugar, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Gently mix to combine. Pour into pie panand evenly distribute.
  4. In a small bowl, mix egg and water.
  5. Place second crust on top (or follow the YouTube instructions above to make a lattice crust). Crimp edges. Cut 2-4 slits in the top if crust covers the entire top. Brush all exposed pastry with the egg wash. Sprinkle with sugar.
  6. Place on a baking sheet covered with foil.
  7. Bake at 425 or 400 for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake another 30 to 40 minutes (or longer) until the blueberries are bubbling. If the crust begins to brown too quickly, cover with foil part way through baking.
  8. Sometimes I start with the pie covered - very loosely with foil - and then take the foil off for the last 30 minutes.
  9. Remove from oven. Allow to cool before serving.
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When Game Day is Over: Go Meatless on Monday

Why am I writing about a meatless Monday recipe on a Friday? It’s not because I want the weekend to be over. Heavens no. It’s so you have time to prepare. It’s Super Bowl Sunday, after all, and if all the TV shows and food blogs are to be believed, you are going to have eaten your way through nachos, chicken wings, dips, and chili. And washed it all down with beer.

And you are going to feel very bloated on Monday.

One way to help with that is to skip the meat on Monday. I’d recommend skipping dairy, too. Which is why this recipe might be just the ticket to feeling better by Tuesday.

This recipe doesn’t require a lot of preparation. But it will require a trip to Wegmans or your fave grocery store unless you have a  stash frozen cauliflower and spinach in your house.  If not, and if you are an introvert like me, then you want to avoid Wegmans on Sunday because that is THE place to be.

I routinely forget this, despite shopping there since the doors opened 20-some years ago. Invariably, I will go in there after taking the dog for a long walk at Asbury Woods. Since wood walkers don’t care what you look like, I typically look like a 50-some-year-old woman who rolled out of bed, brushed her teeth, and put a leash on a 90-pound dog. Sometimes my hair is so bad, I wear a hat.

Of course, that can make things worse. I will take the hat off in Wegmans and have a combination of bed head and hat hair.

It is not pretty.

I keep lipstick and lip gloss in the cup container of my car. So I try to swipe some of that on before I head in to Wegmans. It doesn’t really help. Because now I have bad hair and lipstick. So it’s kinda like a car wreck: You try to look away, but can’t.

Of course, I could take the time and shower and put on makeup. But I’m really just taking a walk in the woods, enjoying nature. I might scare a few squirrels along the way, but that just gives the dog some amusement. This is why I have a dog. He doesn’t care what I look like. He’s just happy I take him for long walks.

So, if you do see me in Wegmans on Sunday morning, please don’t think I’m rude or that I’m avoiding you. OK, I might be avoiding you. But only because I really need to go home and take a shower.

My latest strategy is to go to Wegmans late on Saturday night when all of you are out on date night, or whatever married couples do these days. Then it’s just me and the high college kids with the munchies.

Because you aren’t  burying this dish in loads of cheese – the veggies really need to star. The key is a really good marinara sauce. You can make your own or use a jarred variety. Read the label and pick one without any added sugar. I like Rao’s (expensive, but very tasty), Newman’s Own, Classico Reserva (read the label to make sure you are getting the right Classico). Some others that I haven’t tried are Amy’s and Victorios.

The second secret is to buy frozen riced cauliflower. I bought the already seasoned kind, but that was an accident. Buy the unflavored kind and control your sodium and spices.

This may be made with shells, which you will need to cook, or fresh sheets of pasta, which you don’t. If you are vegan, you will want to buy the dried lasagna noodles and cook them briefly so they are pliable to roll.

Go team! Happy weekend! Feel good about yourself!

XOXOXO

marnie

marniemead@gmail.com

Print Recipe
Vegetarian Lasagna Rollups
This is a vegetarian lasagna that can also be vegan, if you choose to make your own pasta or buy pasta made with no eggs. If you buy the dried pasta sheets or lasagna noodles, you will need to cook them for 3 to 3 minutes in boiling water, drain, and run under cold water, in order to use them in this dish. If you want more of the American lasagna flavor, add some grated Parmesan or mozzarella cheese to the spinach mixture and top with cheese.
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Microwave the spinach and the cauliflower according to the package directions. Drain spinach into a colander to drain and cool.
  2. In a food processor, puree the riced cauliflower with the salt, pepper, garlic powder, and Italian seasonings. Add milk or broth 1 tablespoon at a time, until it has a ricotta-like consistency. Mix in nutmeg and lemon zest.
  3. Spread equal amounts of cauliflower mixture on to each sheet of pasta. Count on 1 to 2 sheets per person, depending on appetite. Top with spinach. Sprinkle with cheese, if desired. Roll up.
  4. I used a slow cooker for this. You can use a 9-inch-by-9-inch or a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking pan (depends on how many roll ups you made).
  5. Spread some sauce on the bottom of the slower cooker insert or in your pan (about 1/3 of the jar). Place the rolled up pasta seam side down in your pan. Cover with remaining marinara sauce. Cook in slow cooker for 2 hours on low. Or put in a 400-degree oven for about 20 minutes. If you put cheese on top, it should be bubbly and hot.
  6. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes (otherwise they don't hold together). Slice and arrange on plates with some sauce. Sprinkle with cheese (or cheese substitute). You can garnish with some chopped parsley to make the plate pretty.
Recipe Notes

If you want to make your own pasta without eggs, follow Mario Batali's recipe here.

My pasta recipe is 1 egg to 1 cup flour, adding water if necessary to finish binding it.

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Children, Divorce, and Christmas (cookies, too)

“Christmas really sucks for children of divorce,” my daughter pronounced while we were sitting on the couch together watching a Zak Efron movie (our compromise) after I made yet another batch of cookies, these with chocolate.

That wasn’t what I was expecting to hear. She’s 14. This is her fourth divorced Christmas. I thought we had worked out the kinks.

“Ah, how do you mean?”

My first reaction is to get all defensive. Mom’s in a better place, I say to myself. When Mom is happier, it’s better for those around Mom (except the divorced Dad, I guess). My grown-up brain is flashing back to the Christmas season six years ago when, on this day, Dec. 20, I went into the Cleveland Clinic because I was in liver failure. I didn’t know exactly what was wrong, other than my liver wasn’t recovering even after I stopped drinking a month earlier. The damage was more extensive than the Erie hospital, where I went in right before Thanksgiving, and returned two weeks later, had noted.

I had been self-medicating with alcohol to deal with anxiety/panic attacks that began when my daughter was around 2. I’d be suddenly overcome with nausea, and then the heaving would start. I could be driving. Or in the middle of a meeting. In the six months leading up to the diagnosis, I ate very little in an attempt to keep my stomach empty. I drank at home (like most women) to stay calm (my rationalization).

I tried therapy. But three different therapists said I had nothing to be anxious about. I had a job. A husband. Family. A daughter. A nice home. Friends. A member of a country club. What did I have to be anxious/depressed about?

As I write this now, I wonder if perhaps that was a question. At the time, I heard judgment. I heard, “Suck it up, sister. There are a lot of people with real problems out there.”

“And you aren’t one of them.”

No excuse on my part. I almost left a middle schooler without a mother.

Support of my family, some close friends, and some great women in AA, helped me navigate life post alcohol. And, not surprisingly, a lot of things became clearer. I was a different person than the woman who married 20 years earlier. I didn’t want to dull feelings, I wanted adventure. I wanted to hike in the mountains. I wanted to kayak – and eventually try rapids. Travel to Europe again. Go dancing. I wanted to live – in all CAPS.

I didn’t, and couldn’t, come home from a day of work, supporting our little family because my husband was unemployed, have a glass of wine and make dinner. I also needed to be a Mom. An active Mom. A Mom who shows her daughter what it is like to bounce back from the edge – it is possible – and go on to be happy. And happiness didn’t mean a house, two cars, two dogs, the country club, and dinner with wine. I had to find it on my own terms.

My daughter is right. Christmas sucks for divorced kids. That first Christmas was painful. The lawyer my ex hired wanted monthly support and a housing allowance that amounted to my entire salary. He was unemployed, and had been for quite a few years. He was in the house and deserved to be supported in the life he and my daughter were accustomed to. Arguing that we couldn’t afford the house – I had tried to convince my ex to sell when he first lost his job so we could afford to live on just my salary. He kept saying he would find a job and it would be OK. Four years and a tremendous amount of credit card debt (nearly all in my name) to balance the books, and I was panicked.

So that first Christmas as painful. I was living rent free thanks to my family in a summer cottage that had been winterized and had heat. I had enough for presents and a tree. But she wasn’t going to wake up in a house with Mom and Dad, and Santa. She would wake up in the house she had lived in her whole life, with no Mom and no tree. I woke up with a tree and no Nicole. The gym had become my anti-anxiety medication, but it was closed. That was when I started running.

I picked her up mid-morning and we had our own Christmas.  I convinced her Santa would find her new second home, even if it was temporary. But it was different. And kids don’t like different, especially where Santa is involved. This wasn’t the first different. Two years earlier, when I was at the Cleveland Clinic, she spent Christmas in Mexico with my parents, my sister, and her family. I wouldn’t be released in time to make it. A winter storm shut down the East Coast, preventing my brothers and their families from getting to Cancun.

So I was messing with her Christmas for the second time.

I think of how far we’ve come. I have my own place now. It’s a small condo – not a three-bedroom house on 2 acres overlooking Lake Erie like she grew up in. My credit is still destroyed, but that just means Christmas is paid for. I own a car, used and purchased with cash, of course. And we have a dog, not a pure-breed, but a loving shelter dog.

But she knows about the struggle to get here. She still watches me at the holiday table when alcohol is served. She worries about money. She thinks I am extravagant when it comes to Christmas – but she still has a list that includes 365 T-shirts (so she doesn’t have to worry about running out) and an equal number of phone cases.

I know this is OK. She has the optimism to still ask for the moon, but understand that she may not get there. She can see that you can go to a holiday event and not have a drink. I also think it is OK not to go to some holiday events because the main feature is alcohol, which is incredibly dull when you are the only person not imbibing. It’s OK to find other things to do, like go for a walk in the woods. Read a book. Or find a terrible Zak Efron movie on TV to watch with your daughter.

But, yes, Nicole, Christmas does suck when you are the child of divorce. Mainly because you learn a lot of lessons about Christmas at an earlier age than the other kids. You learn that it’s not a holiday about presents that magically appear, and people who get along. You learn that Christmas is about love. It’s about the love of a mother for her child. And sometimes the journey they take is a difficult one, sometimes celebrated with strangers in a house that isn’t our own.

I’m not all about the lessons – thank heavens. I do know my daughter adores chocolate. So after her pronunciation about divorce, I handed her a cookie. It doesn’t make everything better, but chocolate does help.

Merry, Merry

Marnie

Marnie@marniemeadmedia.com

 

Print Recipe
Children, Divorce, and Christmas (cookies, too)
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Passive Time 1 hour
Servings
dozen
Ingredients
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Passive Time 1 hour
Servings
dozen
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Cream butter, cream cheese and sugar using the paddle attachment of a stand mixer. Beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes or more. Add egg, and flavorings.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add slowly to butter mixture. Mix until a soft dough forms. Divide in half.
  3. Lay a sheet of parchment on a cookie sheet and place 1 ball of dough on it. Cover with plastic wrap and roll out to 1/4 to 1/8-inch thick. Repeat with second ball. Refrigerate 1 hour.
  4. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cut out cookies. Remove scraps (to reroll in the same method). Bake for 8 to 12 minutes, or until edges just start to brown. This will depend on how thick the cookies are. Check after 8.
  5. Remove from oven. Allow to cool about 5 minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
  6. To dip in chocolate, heat chocolate chips and butter in a microwave-safe bowl for 30 seconds. Stir. If not melted, return to microwave for another 30 seconds. Stir until melted.
  7. Dip cookies in chocolate. Or, dip part in chocolate and use a silicone brush (like for basting meat) to spread chocolate where you want it. Return to the wire rack to harden. If using sprinkles, add before chocolate hardens.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from TheKitchn.com

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