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Saturday, 17, November New Ingredient: Kabocha Squash

I am engaged this afternoon in the first stages of trying out this muffin recipe.

I’ve been trying to make healthy/”home-cooked” food a more entrenched part of my routines for most of this past year – not intentionally at all – what I originally intended was to try and spend less money eating out, waste less food, and try to take lunch to work more often rather than buy it.

Looking back, I am realizing that any dish that takes more than 45 mins to prepare doesn’t get cooked – at least not on week nights*. And lots of necessary tasks compete for weekend time, so I can only attempt “big project” recipes occasionally.

This particular recipe definitely qualifies as a “big project” (I estimate total time with my particular equipment (prep, cooking, clean up) at about 3.5 hours) but I hope that it will prove feasible to provide the other half of my weekday breakfasts. (Right now, I boil up a batch of eggs & one egg is one half of one day’s breakfast.)

After time spent, the other hurdle to cooking for me right now is unfamiliarity with many seasonal foods out here on the East Coast. Any ingredient that one doesn’t know how to treat adds time to the cooking process.  I’m thinking I might find it helpful to blog some of my encounters with new ingredients, so I’ll have some information on when things come back into season. So this here is a “blogging for myself” moment.

For this particular recipe, the new-to-me ingredient is kabocha squash. I am substituting a number of ingredients in the recipe already (no canola oil, whole wheat flour, buttermilk or blackstrap molasses here), so I thought I’d stick with the squash indicated.

Here is my kabocha, which I had not heard of, prior to reading today’s recipe.

Here he is.

Apparently it’s an Asian winter squash.

I’m not friendly to squash as a family; I find the easier-to-prepare varieties bland or otherwise distasteful (thinking acorn & spaghetti squash) and the difficult-to-prepare varieties too far up the prep-time curve to use frequently. Last Thanksgiving, I had my first experience with butternut squash. Very tasty, but prepping the 3.5 lbs I was working with took a miserable 2.5 hours.

The kabocha was only slightly easier to cut up than butternut squash (a mark against it.)

Its flesh and seeds resemble pumpkin and the pulp was similarly stringy when cleaning out the seeds. However, it smells very much like cucumber when cut into. (A point in its favor; I don’t much like the smell of pumpkin or butternut squash when first cut up.)

There’s not a lot of flesh relative to the size of the squash. It roasted easily in about 40 minutes, though.

It has a nice flavor when roasted, mild and a little sweet, reminding me of sweet potato. It was also very easy to puree using my pesto-making mortar & pestle set.

About 15 mins work (I didn’t puree it super-finely) yielded about 2 cups nice puree (twice as much per 2 lb squash as predicted in the recipe.)

I would likely be willing to occasionally take a weekend day to roast & puree this squash if I like the muffins, since the yield was enough for more than one batch. I froze the second cup of puree to use later.

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*The 9-5 (or later if it’s busy) schedule does not allow for humane living. Neither does the complete inflexibility related to scheduling of my (Catholic) employer nor their stinginess with “vacation” time.


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Friday, 9 November, 2012 Blogiversary Takes

Blogiversary Mishmash Quick Takes

1. Not the most diligent of bloggers, yet I’ve made it a full year at this blog. I feel as though I’m still just getting started.

2. I don’t really have a favorite post, so here’s the opinion post I feel most strongly about. (Not hard to pick ’cause I think I’ve done two opinion posts ever and the other one was on clothes.)

3. Least exciting stat: my most viewed post is: The last time I did Quick Takes

4. Last week I got tired of the look of my blog, so I changed it a bit.

5.The election. Ugh. Not the outcome I was hoping for in the presidential race. I don’t feel apocalyptic about it, but more like this from More Like Mary More Like Me (via Bonnie Engstrom)

“Am I even strong enough to be a martyr myself? Maybe not to death, but to jail? Or to joblessness? What will I be asked to sacrifice for my faith? And I’m sure some will read this and think I’m being melodramatic and that it can’t possibly come to that. I hope you’re right. But I believe you’re wrong. It’s already happening.”

Exactly. I do not feel ready for the marginalization of Catholics that is arriving slowly, creeping along. I guess I need to pray.

6. I had a placeholder for a garden Take here. I’ve got nothing. The poor garden is so so neglected lately.

7. And now for something completely different: this made me laugh (via a procrastinating-schoolwork-sibling on facebook):

UPDATE: Aaack – I forgot to link up. More Quick Takes at Jen’s.


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Monday, 5 November, 2012 Returning

Making my way back after yet another unplanned blog break.  It was not the bronchitis that kept me away, for once I had petulantly outed it, I turned a corner and started to feel better. I had a full week of feeling well and then I made the mistake of babysitting again and came away with a cold (but missed the hand, foot & mouth disease my charges developed.) Then there was a hurricane, then Halloween, All Saints’ and All Souls’ … and 3 weeks later I’m trying to return to the blog.

I spent the Saturday & Sunday before preparing for the hurricane. A funny sort of task: simultaneously trying to get ready for the work week and for a work-week-ending storm. I ended up packing up the garden as best I could and doing a big shop on Saturday, hitting 3 different stores to get groceries for the week  and water, batteries, etc for the storm. Sunday I spent cleaning & cooking at a leisurely pace – I made a big pot of soup against my cold and muffins and deep cleaned the kitchen. Something about it reminded me very much of Advent, but in preparation for such a different arrival…

In the end, the storm did little damage here in DC, although the winds were pretty bad. I think the storms we had in the summer weeded weak trees and forced the power company to shore up it’s system, such that the area weathered this storm quite well. I got two days off work out of it and didn’t even lose power – I can’t complain.

However, the storm seemed to usher out any further chance of mild weather. Since it departed, it’s been chilly, not breaking 50 degrees during the day. Consequently, I need to both unpack the garden from the storm and “winterize” it.

I am not sure if publishing “to do’s” helps or hinders getting things done, but am willing to try an experiment in accountability.  On the personal front, I am busy busy this fall (spells bad news for blogging habits) working on applications to Masters/teaching credentialing programs. I taught for about 6 years back in California, but never sought a credential. Now I would like to return to teaching, but I want the freedom a credential will give me. So. Here’s hoping making this public provides motivation to get these applications in early!

I mourn the end of the growing season. RIP pretty flowers. (Well, actually, these are still alive, but my other annuals are coming to an end.)


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Thursday, 11 October, 2012 Thursday Quick Takes

Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Quick Takes: Sick Pity Party Edition

1. “Acute viral bronchitis.” This is why there has been no blogging over here in forever.

2. “Which has lasted longer than normal,” quoth the doc last Friday, regarding the then two weeks of sick. Apparently, I could have ten more days to go before I feel better.

3. I guess codeine is the drug of the moment. I have a scrip for cough syrup with codeine. When I had the emergency root canal situation this summer, I was given Tylenol with codeine and I discovered that codeine produces a very altered mental state in me.  Not planning on filling the cough syrup prescription; I have a hard time seeing being high as an appealing alternative to being sick.

4. Self-pity on display (written Tues. while home sick):  Being sick when you are single/on your own sucks.  It is also the one situation where sharing a house is not a positive. One cannot monopolize the couch and bathroom with abandon in a shared house; and, sick or not, one cannot let the dishes pile up. I have been confined to my increasingly putrid room for the last 14 days. And I pity my poor housemates (although they are uninfected thus far.)

5. Canned soup gets gross after week two. Even excellent instant miso gets old. Homemade chicken soup is much better and rutabagas make a nice substitute for rice or noodles. (When I get better, I really must remember to make/freeze another large batch against illness or to give to sick friends.)

6. The weather has more or less turned in DC, and I need to do all my cold-weather arranging (inside & out), but am still too sick to tackle much of it.

Besides geographic beauty, I miss the simplicity of California dressing.  This is the time of year where I resent strongly the need to switch out my whole wardrobe and do not look forward to having to stifle myself in multiple layers of cloth every day. Sure, it’s fun to go read all the fashion sites and get “ideas” for the change of seasons, but even after four years, the amount of clothing needed for the East Coast still feels  excessive and fussy and unfrugal and unnecessary to me.

The only cold weather chore I’ve gotten to (out of sheer necessity) is to put my duvet back on my bed. For a long time I was in complete agreement with Seraphic on the subject of beds/bed linen – especially duvet versus sheets*.  But I ended up buying a duvet some years back (the last time I had nasty bronchitis, actually) and I really like it.  I just (unrepentantly) use sheets with the duvet.  In the very hot months, I just take the duvet out of its cover and use the cover as a light blanket. When the weather turns, I stick the duvet back in its cover, and if it gets very cold, add blankets. Works quite nicely, I think.

7.  This site is about my speed right now. Bad for my cough, though.

Find more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary

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*(Top sheets provide a necessary barrier between you & the covers. Thus, if you are sick or not especially clean or whatever, the covers remain uncontaminated and no need to wash all your bedding frequently, just wash the sheets. Substituting a duvet cover is not the same somehow.)


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Friday, 21 September, 2012 Quick Takes

This week I set out to write one quick take per day until Friday. It didn’t quite work out that way. Fascinating results below:

1. Saturday night: (Premature?) aging is proceeding apace over here. It is 11:30 pm and I am trying to get to bed while outside the air outside (windows open because the weather is perfect) rings with the yelling from droves of CUA students processing to and from off-campus parties. If I had a hose, I’d be tempted to turn it on them.

2. Tuesday lunch: Elizabeth Foss is blogging about her Napa Valley trip. After last week’s Quick Takes, her pictures are killing me.

3. Wednesday night:  I think I may be out of touch with the culture of contemporary 3-year-olds (?)

Babysitting tonight, I was compelled to trap the younger (18 mos old and trouble, trouble, trouble) of the two brothers I was watching between my knees so I could use two remotes at once to manipulate the incredibly large and complicated TV system into playing a video. To mollify the trapped party I started singing “London Bridge Is Falling Down,” substituting his name for “lady” in the chorus (guaranteed to work for a whole 20 seconds.) Immediately, I had the (apparently) wonder-struck 3-year-old in my lap. “What is that song?!” “Sing it again!” “I want to hear it again.”

I think even when I was 3, “London Bridge” was old news…

4. I do not remember the words to “London Bridge” past “Take the key and lock him up.”

5. Thursday morning: In the garden I am growing a (one singular) pepper. I do not know what type it is, so I am uncertain whether/when to pick it.

It looks like a banana pepper. If it is, what do I do with it? All the banana peppers I’ve ever eaten have been pickled…

6. Thursday evening: So, I started out to slowly change my garden page to reflect my garden (not that the inspiration pictures of the Arboretum weren’t lovely.) I ended up making a little garden section. It’s probably not fascinating to anyone but me and is still under construction, but take a gander if you will and leave constructive criticism.

7. Japanese food was made to fight colds (I have the start of one.) Miso + wasabi. Medicine.

More coherent Quick Takes at Conversion Diary.