…more like Measured and SNOW, am I right?
…more like Measured and SNOW, am I right?
Today was the last outdoor Dane County Farmers’ Market. It’s always a bittersweet day. The DCFM is the largest producer only farmers’ market in the nation. It’s a beautiful affair every saturday, as anyone who has been to it can attest. It stretches around the entire Capitol square in downtown Madison.
The “sweet” part of calling the last outdoor market of the season “bittersweet” is simply that we usually find some great deals. Today’s biggest score was an incredible bounty of winter squash. Twenty five pounds of squash for only $8 to be exact.
We’ve been eating quite a bit of acorn squash this fall. It’s such an easy, nutritious, comforting food. We just chop one in half and roast it in the oven. Sometimes we stuff it with something yummy, but we usually just eat them with butter and salt. Mmmm. Hard to beat after a long day at work, especially when it’s chilly outside.
But today, I want to tell you about a super-dee-duper easy and lovely way to use butternut squash. Most winter squashes will keep for a few to several months if stored properly in a cool, dry, dark space. That’s one of the many reasons I love them so. But it’s also nice to have some pureed squash ready to roll for using in pies, soups, baking, or just on its own as a side dish. You can buy canned butternut squash in the store, and it’s relatively okay tasting, but it has nothing on the complex flavor of homemade puree. No contest. And the store-bought kind is more expensive. And you have more waste. And did I mention it’s not as good? The only thing it has going for it is convenience, but it truly is not that hard to make you own. So. Maybe I will convert you today.
HOMEMADE OVEN ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH PUREE
This same basic recipe can be used for most winter squash, including pumpkins and acorn squashes (pictured above). Simply adjust roasting times as necessary.
1. Preheat oven to 400.
2. Rinse butternut squash under cool water.
3.Cut the squash in half lengthwise. I do this by first cutting a small slice off of the top or bottom of the squash to give me a flat, stable bottom, and then I just carefully press my knife down the middle.
4. Scoop out the seeds and scrape out the stringy membrane. DO NOT THROW THIS AWAY! Put it in a bowl off to the side so you can make awesome roasted squash seeds!
5. Place squash cut side down on a foil-lined baking sheet or roasting pan.
6. Put on center rack of oven for about 45 minutes to an hour. This really can vary, so I always start checking around 35 minutes. Stick a knife right into the squash. If it slides through the skin and into the flesh easily, you’re good to go. Also, it should look all golden and brown like this:
7. Give it a good 10 minutes or so until the squash is cool enough to handle. The skin peels off quite easily, so you don’t even need to scoop out the squash. Just pull off the skin.
8. Put your delicious squash into a food processor or blender and puree it in batches until silky smooth. You could also use an immersion/stick blender here. Occasionally check in on the squash and push it down to ensure all the pieces get pureed well.
9. That’s it! You’re done. Just scoop the puree into freezer bags, label, and store flat. I portioned mine out into 3 bags of 2 cup portions and one larger bag with 4 cups of puree.
10. Don’t forget to let your good, patient dog lick the bowls and spoons (no knives or blades!).
Now, about those seeds. After you’ve scooped them into a bowl, give them a good rinse and pick off all of the membrane. Then, throw them on a baking sheet or pan with a bit of butter or oil and seasonings of your choice (garlic salt is easy and delicious, but curry type spices, assorted herbs, and cayenne pepper are also great options). Throw the pan in the oven with the squash, and you should be good to go in less than 20 minutes. Just keep them in there until they are golden and crispy. They will crisp up a bit more once they’ve cooled, but they should be fairly crunchy coming out of the oven. You can store them in an airtight container for a week or so, but ours never last much longer than an hour.
So that’s that. Now you have delicious, homemade squash puree and a great snack of roasted seeds. Don’t forget to put the skin in your compost. There is really no waste on this (except the foil if you use it). Feels good, looks good, tastes good, and makes the house smell yummy! And the best way to ensure you don’t ever “go back” to store-bought is to make sure you always have some ready to use in the freezer. Plan ahead, and you’ll be eating better and saving money in no time.
To close, here’s what’s going on in our freezer currently:
Post by Amanda
Time for lunch.
Post by Amanda
There are so many reasons why I can & preserve food. The list is actually quite long. But there is one reason that outdoes the rest. And tonight, I felt it strongly and it gave me just the shot in the arm I needed to keep me going.
This weekend, Lanny and I bought 26 ears of corn at the farmers’ market that I shucked, blanched, cut, and froze while he was at work on Saturday.
We also bought 6 pounds of beans ($1.50/lb. at the end of season-wahoo!!) which we canned on Sunday–dilly beans for days & days! I had some brine left over and room in the canner, so I threw in a couple of pints of super spicy aji peppers as well.
Like I’ve said, I have a long list of reasons why I’ve committed to doing this, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit that it’s tiring work. After spending so many hours of my weekend in the kitchen, I came home after a long day of work tonight to a pile of pears that needed tending to ASAP and a bucket of tomatoes that need to be canned by tomorrow at the latest.
After devouring a delicious meal of garden kale, pinto beans, red potatoes, and fresh tomatoes (courtesy of my wonderful partner), Lanny and I dug deep for energy, and cooked down about 5 pounds of pears from our tree into pearsauce (like applesauce, but with pears). As the smell filled the house, and we cranked away using my mom’s old food mill, I started to feel the feeling I chase in all my hours of canning: I felt my Grandma Swartzentruber nearby.
One of my grandma’s specialties was her most delicious applesauce which she made from good ol’ Ohio Yellow Transparent apples. She canned and froze it– but everyone’s favorite was always the frozen version. It’s impossible for me to eat applesauce without thinking of her, and comparing it to hers. For as long as I live, one of my all time favorite meals will always be warm Grandma Noodles with a plop of frozen Grandma Applesauce on top. Makes my stomach growl just thinking of it even after that hearty meal.
Tonight, after a long session of standing over the stove sampling and mmming and sampling and mmming, I grabbed a few of my Grandma’s old freezer containers that I selected out of her basement storage after she passed away, and spooned the pearsauce into them. As I went to secure the lid, I looked down to see “baked corn” in her handwriting inscribed in sharpie on the upper right hand of the yellow plastic. My eyes swelled up, and I just lost it. I stood there with my hands where hers had once been, and just howled.
I miss her so, so much. I hate that I didn’t learn the art of food preservation from her. I will never get over my regret of that. And it breaks my heart that she can’t see my house, our garden, my stores of food in the basement and the freezer. Just rips me right up. But I also know that she’d be so proud of me for carrying on this labor-intensive practice. And one thing is for sure– I will continue to spend hours upon hours every summer prepping food, washing jars & lids, burning my hands on my canner lid (will I never learn?), waiting, labeling, etc. for as long as I am physically able, and if I only feel her presence once every dozen times, it will always be worth it. I love her. I miss her. I hope to be like her.
And that’s really why I do it.
Post by Amanda
So remember those yellow rooms? Yeah, those have been non-yellow for a while now. We haven’t done many home update posts in a while. Mostly because we haven’t taken the time to straighten things up and take good shots in pretty lighting. I’ve decided something is better than nothing at this point, so I just took a couple of pictures so we can get this out there. One of these days, I’ll have the baby sis come take some proper shots and everything will look much prettier. But until then, check it out!
GOODBYE YELLOW. Phew.
Post by Amanda
Other than the sliding of the keys across the table from previous owners to us, the happiest moment of closing on our house to me was when the previous owners told us that the beautiful flowering tree in the backyard was a pear tree.
I love pears. LOVE them.
Oh, the plans I had for my juicy pears the moment I found out they were mine! Thoughts of fresh pear juice dripping down my hands while chomping down on pear after pear, thoughts of freezing pear sauce and canning pear butter, thoughts of pear brandy, pears in my salads, pear tarts, pear cobbler, poached pears, pears with ice cream, pears in my oatmeal, pears and gorgonzola, ginger-pear this, pear-walnut that….my heart leaps & flips & breakdances at the thoughts.
The most adorable little pear babies started popping up all over that gorgeous tree of hope & dreams.
And then this awful summer weather came. And everything struggled to survive. Nonetheless, the stalwart pear tree laughed in the face of the drought and produced an overwhelming abundance of pears. Though Willa did her darndest to chase them out, the squirrels flocked to the tree, and who could blame them? It was HOT and DRY and they need food too. And anyway, we’re down with sharing the wealth and could never–even with all of my drool-inducing pear plans–use up all that fruit (especially the ones at the top of the tree, out of reach even to Lanny on the ladder with our telescoping fruit picker pole!). So we waited with bated breath for them to ripen.
Before we knew it, at least 100 pears had fallen to the ground and a city of bees came to feast. I was so discouraged. Got stung on the bottom of my foot. Became even more discouraged.
Then I read that pears often ripen better off the tree than on. So I bucked up and started picking. And picking. And picking.
I stuck them in the fridge in paper bags. And waited. And waited. And they didn’t ripen.
We lost another 100 (at the VERY least) to the ground and the bees. And then went for a second round of picking. At this point, we decided that the weather had thrown off the pears a bit this year–possibly stunted their growth– and also accepted the fact that we’re learning. And we’ll do better next year.
The pears are now hanging out outside of the fridge in paper bags accompanied by some apples and bananas to help speed up their ripening. I’m worried we won’t get many to ripen properly, but there’s nothing I can do right now but incessantly read advice online and wait.
I really want that pear butter to happen.
As we wait and hope, does anyone have any helpful pear tips for us–for this year or the years to come?
Post by Amanda
We haven’t been very good at house progress posts lately. In reality, for the past number of weeks, we haven’t really done a whole lot by way of improving the house. But there is a lot of progress we just haven’t posted about.
The most obvious thing that comes to mind is the kitchen wall madness that we started attacking mere hours after the house was ours, and completed within a matter of weeks.
Oh, the wall. The printed panel wall. Here’s what it looked like when we bought the place:
As if regular crappy wood paneling wasn’t enough, this paneling actually had a floral & stripe pattern printed right onto it. That’s right: combo perma-wallpaper and crappy paneling (CPWCP). YIKES.
After busting through the door for the first time after closing, we went straight to ripping up the carpet (as you probably remember). Once we were assured that there actually were hardwood floors in the living room, office, and hallway, Lanny started hacking at the wall. He revealed this nightmare lurking behind the CPWCP:
Which means we went straight from CPWCP (below, right) to the heaven-help-us-crazy-kitschy-actual-wallpaper (below, left).
Coffee carafes, coffee grinders, tea cups, baskets of fruit, flower arrangements, single pieces of assorted fruits, decorative bowls, pots of honey, radishes, MY GOD WHAT WASN’T ON THAT WALLPAPER? Lanny was temporarily rendered insane by the wallpaper and wanted to keep it. Some of our friends were infected by that awful virus as well. And while I can find this type of kitschy crap charming sometimes, this wall in my house in my kitchen that already has nasty linoleum floors that need to be replaced, outdated honey oak cabinets, blue?green?grey? formica countertops, and old appliances is just not the place for it.
My parents and sister came for a visit shortly after we moved in, and thank goodness for that. Aside from some major landscaping accomplishments (post on that yet to come) and various other projects, they helped us tackle that wall. One wall. So much work. So Much Worth It.
Late one night, I reached my limit with the darn thing, and just started ripping off the paper. (anyone ever read The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman? Yeah.) Mom joined me.
Considering the horror stories I had read online about wallpaper removal, I guess we had it pretty easy. But. It was a pain, for sure. And once we were done removing all the little bits of paper, we were left with a pretty sad wall. And this is where it really pays off to have a Won’t Stop Until It’s Perfect Dad. My dad sanded and spackled the heck outta that wall. If it were up to Lanny and me, we would’ve done minimal prepping and painted the wall just to get it over with already. But my Dad didn’t stop until that sucker was smooth as glass. It was an amazing feat of patience I will never know personally.
AND SO ANYWAY. Then we could paint. And here it is now, in all of its non-CPWCP and de-kitschified glory.
Post by Amanda