Courtesy of Jenna – Balsamic Syrup

My sister came through and Jenna shared the recipe for the Balsamic Syrup I used to garnish the Butternut Squash Soup!

She says:

How fun! Thanks for sharing!  Syrup was ridiculously easy – balsamic vinegar mixed with half the amount of sugar (I used 1 1/2 cups of vinegar and 3/4 cups sugar) in a heavy saucepan .. boil…simmer… reduce until it coats the back of a spoon.  Or until half its original volume, if you have an eye for things like that.

Mmmmm.  Yummy!

Mmmmm. Yummy!

At Thanksgiving, Jenna served  fresh fig halves, topped with prosciutto and goat cheese, drizzled with the syrup over the top.  They were heavenly!

Thank you to my sister and to Jenna.  Undying friendship and gratitude coming your way!

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Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

As promised, I had a plan for that turkey stock.  Originally, I had roasted Butternut squash slices, and was going to use that instead of yams for candied yams on Thanksgiving.  We had traveled to visit my sister for the holiday.  When we got to the point of preparing the candied yam “substitute”, I had forgotten the squash at home in my freezer.  A six hour drive to retrieve them was out of the question, and no one starved to death because we were missing one side dish….

There wasn’t really a lot that went into this:

  • 2 butternut squash
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 3-4 c. Turkey stock (I’m sure any stock or broth would do)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • approx. 1 t. red wine vinegar

To roast the squash, I cut the squash (2 squash, actually) in half cross wise (I wanted my squash circles to look like yams slices at least!  If I am going to mess with people’s traditional dishes, I figured I had better at last try to make them look right.)

I scooped out the seeds and goop, peeled the shell and sliced the squash into circles (hollow and filled).

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I coated the pan and squash slices with olive oil cooking spray and roasted at 425°, until tender, 45-60 minutes.

But that was two weeks before I made soup.  I had pulled the frozen squash from the freezer in the morning and let it thaw during the day.  After work, I put the now mushy squash in the blender and puréed.  To get it to fully blend, I did add turkey stock as needed, so it would blend.

IMG_0914Once the purée was smooth, I poured it into a large sauce pan over medium heat.  I added turkey stock ladle by ladle, whisking in between, until I got the thick, bisque-like texture I was looking for,  4 ladles full (about 2 cups?).

For flavor, I added sea salt, pepper and three glugs of red wine vinegar.  (I am fully aware “glug” is not a precise measurement or any type of a term of art, but that IS the sound it made coming out the top of my bottle.  If I had to guess, I would say it ended up being about 1 t. red wine vinegar).

IMG_0916Once the soup was heated through, it was ready to serve.  I garnished mine with leftover roasted root veggies.  We also had a balsamic syrup left over from Thanksgiving, that a friend of my sister’s had brought over and I conned them into letting me bring some home.  🙂  It was thick,  sweet and tart; the perfect complement to a smooth and not overly exciting soup.

If Jenna wanted undying gratitude and friendship, she could share her Balsamic Syrup recipe… (Hint, Hint, Hint).

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Winter CSA box 3 and getting rid of the last of the Thanksgiving leftovers – Turkey Stock

I was really excited by this week’s box, mostly because we got shallots.  I hate, hate, HATE buying two pathetic shallots at the grocery store in those little plastic net bags and paying over $3 for the privilege.  And that is on a good day, IF they even have shallots.

These are dirty, but they are big and beautiful (to me at least – but I am a dork…).

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We also got gorgeous swiss chard, a very regal purple kale, mixed salad greens, cooking greens, onions, white radishes, more ugly apples and a butternut squash.

The squash may go into roasted butternut squash soup and the ugly apples are tasty, so a pie is in our future.  With two weeks of mixed greens, we are eating salad every night.  All these “cooking greens” have also got me chopping greens and adding them to everything.  The kids did actually grant me permission to add greens to smoothies this time, if they can’t see them.

My sister sent me home with the wings off our 26lb. Thanksgiving turkey, therefore it was time for stock (No one eats these, right?!)

Turkey Stock

  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1/2 med. onion, chopped
  • 2 turkey wings, previously roasted

In a deep stock pot, I heated the olive oil, then added the onion and cooked over medium heat until translucent.

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Since they has already been roasted (and refrigerated since Thanksgiving) I didn’t need to cook the turkey wings.  I lowered the temperature and covered the pot, letting it simmer until the turkey wings had given up their moisture – I have a cookbook that describes it this way.  I suppose they do “give up” something and there is some liquid in the bottom of the pot when I look.  But mostly I am looking for the brown crust of cooked bits of stuff all over the bottom of the pot, because THAT is where the big flavor is.  Anyhow, that took about 20 minutes.

Now, I removed the turkey wings and added to the pot:

  • 1/2 c. coarsely chopped celery hearts (with leaves)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8 c. water

Increasing the heat, I brought this to a boil, added the turkey wings back, and reduced the heat to let this simmer until the broth was richly flavored.  This is why I love making my own stock, the longer you forget about it, the better it gets. 🙂

simmering stock

simmering stock

I let it simmer for about 1/2 hour.  Then strained the solids and let the broth cool for a while, skimming off the fat after it separated (there wasn’t much).

I plan on using this stock in squash soup within the next day or so.  Otherwise, I like to freeze stock in ice cube trays for easy to measure future use. I usually figure about 1 T. per cube.

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Winter CSA – Box #2 – I thought it was romaine….

Since my winter CSA boxes aren’t delivered every week, I need to call it Box #2 instead of Week #2.  To add to the confusion, our next box is next week, only one week! No delay or chance to eat the large backlog of squash I have going on…

This doesn't even include the butternut in the garage.

This doesn’t even include the butternut in the garage.

This week, our farmer ‘fessed up about the down side of the winter CSA;  there is not the variety of options to choose from each week to fill our boxes like we have in the summer.  I was surprised by the large amount of greens in my box this week (Thank goodness I used the last of my kale in the smoothies!).

In Box #2, we had bok choy, cooking greens (that is what the farmer called them), mixed salad greens, what I thought was a large head of romaine, long bell shaped radishes, turnips,  a bunch of ugly apples (8), and 4 green tomatoes (also not super model material).

My experience has been that CSA romaine doesn’t last very long, so I told the family we were having ceasar salad the first day.  But when I went to chop the romaine, I realized it was a really large head of bok choy!

Undeterred, I whipped up the salad and served it without a word as to the mis-identification of my “lettuce”.  They ate it up, but the 14 year old did mention that the salad tasted a little funny.  Oops.

So now I have a lot of bok choy to make Kirsten’s Beef and Bok Choy Pie. 🙂

The ugly apples will become apple crisp.  The turnips will be roasted with some of that squash and whole garlic cloves.  Yummmm.

We’ve been joking about fried green tomatoes.

I bought sausage and plan to make sausage stuffed acorn squash one of these days.

Photo Stream finally started playing nicely and loaded my squash photo.  Yeah!   Good night all!

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Pumpkin Rolls and Blueberry Smoothies

I had a wonderful Thanksgiving with my sister (and her family), my husband and my children.  Having the people I love more than anyone else in one place for three days was a spectacular gift that I truly appreciated. 🙂

While watching football on Sunday, I baked a variation of  Bonnie’s Sweet Potato Crescents from Recipes Happen, using pumpkin puree instead of sweet potatoes.  It worked well and my family has decided that recipe is a keeper.  Thank you Bonnie!

24 hours later, and this is all I have left. 😦

My sister sent me home with lots of frozen fruit: blueberries, raspberries, and peaches.

Yesterday for breakfast, I whipped up Blueberry Banana smoothies.  Following Kristen’s lead at Farm Fresh Feasts, I slipped in some chopped kale (before the kids walked into the room 😉 ).  They didn’t notice, it used my kale, and greatly increased the vitamin content in our breakfast.  A win all around!

In my day job, the end of the year is my busiest time of year.  And I’m not even in retail, I’m an estate planning attorney!  Go figure!   My point is to warn you I may be less prolific at blogging for the next few weeks, but I’m not gone and haven’t lost interest.

Maybe I should ask Santa for a few extra hours in each week….

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Storing Fresh Ginger

I really like using fresh ginger in lots of cooking.  It is strong, adds lots of flavor, and can blend into so many types of dishes.  I used some in my cranberry jelly and the apple butter; I love it when I make Kiran’s chai, in Thai food dishes, soups, pies, etc.

My problem has been when I buy a chunk of fresh ginger (none in my CSA box so far) – I wonder if it would grow here? I’ll have to ask my farmer.  🙂

Anyhow,  I try to buy very small chunks because it almost always dries out after the first recipe and I end up throwing the dried up chunk into the compost.  😦

Over the past few years, I have discovered that wrapping my lettuce and other greens in a paper towel helps them stay fresh in the refrigerator way longer than if they are just stored in the bag they come home from the grocery store in or unwrapped.  Maybe this would work for fresh ginger?

I wrapped a 4″x 1.5″ chunk in a paper towel and put that inside the vegetable bag from the grocery store – and it worked!  The trimmed ends got a bit dry, but not so they had to be discarded.  Nothing started growing on it either.  I bought that clump of ginger about 3 weeks ago and I just used the last of it Saturday.

shredded ginger and lime zest

I suppose this isn’t rocket science and maybe you all knew this already, but it was a revelation to me.  Now I can use fresh ginger more often.  (PS:  don’t tell the kids….).

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Pumpkin Cheesecake Part II – I can’t even follow my own recipes …

Because I have LOTS of pumpkin puree, I offered to bring the pumpkin pie to Thanksgiving with my sister. But really, I have ricotta cheese and greek yogurt, so we get  pumpkin yogurt cheesecake.

Like the headline says, I can’t even follow my own recipe..

I did use the same walnut pie crust.  The kids have been messing around with my chocolate chips and had a big ball of previously melted chocolate chips in the refrigerator.  I melted that in a double boiler and spread a layer of chocolate on top of the baked crust before adding the cheesecake mixture to the spring form pan.

Because chocolate makes everything better. 🙂

I didn’t have the same quantities of ricotta and greek yogurt on hand, more ricotta, less yogurt, but still about 2 cups of cheesey white stuff…

Also, I have this bottle of really dark beer I bought to make a maple stout quick bread recipe I saw in Cooking Light.

My “cooking” beer!

(I hope you can appreciate my restraint in buying one bottle rather than an entire 6 pack of Guinness!  Although Guinness is health food in a beer.)

I exchanged 1 t. of stout beer for the 1 t. of vanilla extract.

The pumpkin puree I had thawed was about 1.5 cups, rather than the 1 cup in the original bastardization of a real recipe. I know I am getting pretty far out on a limb here, but the batter tasted good, so I don’t think I will ruin Thanksgiving.

It took 1 hour and 15 minutes for the center to firm up and not shake when I nudged the pan.  When I tried to loosen the cheesecake by running a knife around the edges, it was stickier and roughed up the edges, but this gave me an opportunity to taste the bits that stuck to my knife.  Darn!  🙂  The bits I got, with a hint of chocolate sticking to the knife, made me want to eat more.  Could I cut the whole cheesecake into individual slices and reassemble it as a smaller cheesecake?

It isn’t as picture perfect as the original.  Since we are traveling, I may leave it in the pan until we get to my sister’s to prevent more catastrophic damage.

The bits I tasted were very yummy.  I’ll have to let you know the broader family consensus later this week.

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Cranberry Jelly w/ Lime and Ginger

My favorite part of Thanksgiving is cranberries.  Canned cranberry jelly is okay.  I’ve made fresh cooked cranberry chutney before, but this year I wanted to try a jelly.

My inspiration has been the rosehip honey made by Anne at Life in Mud Spattered Boots.  She is who I want to be when I grow up.  The pictures and the stories from her farm always make me feel at home.

I was a little nervous, because my last attempt at any type of preserves didn’t work so well, and I really do not want runny jelly.   Before starting, I reviewed all the comments suggesting ways to improve on my strawberry jam.  Because cranberries are so tart, I wasn’t afraid to add lots of sugar, and I had bought pectin too.

  • 1.5 lbs fresh cranberries            Boil  cranberries until softened.
  • 4 c. water

Strain the cranberries and return the liquid to the stove. I had 3.5 cups of liquid, and added:

  • 3.5 c. sugar                                Bring sugar and liquid to a rolling boil.
  • zest from 1 lime                        Add lime and ginger while boiling.
  • 1 t. grated fresh ginger
  • 1 3 oz. pouch pectin

Add the pectin to boiling liquid and boil for one more minute.

This made enough for 2 full size jars, and a little left over for me right now.

Cranberry Jelly

My sample has set up nicely.   I heard both my jars pop as they cooled, so it sounds like the canning was a success as well.

Turkey sandwiches are in my future!
See what others are doing with their Fall/Winter CSA shares with Heather at:

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Winter CSA Week 1 – Thanksgiving Preparations

My winter CSA boxes will only come every two weeks.  Sigh.


But I am excited because I got a  great variety: tomatoes, kale, napa cabbage, cranberries, turnips, peppers and a huge squash – oh, and some daikon radishes, and more ornamental corn.

I’ve been waiting for the cranberries because I wanted to make cranberry jelly for Thanksgiving.  This squash will become a side – sort of like candied sweet potatoes for Thursday.

The gourds and ornamental corn had overwhelmed the dining room table to the point where there was no room left for people to sit and eat, so I pared the collection down to our favorite gourds and took all the extra to work last week.  There is one woman who loves to decorate her whole house every season and I thought she would enjoy them.  She wanted it all, but held back, giving others a chance to choose what they might like.  Such restraint!  The new corn got slipped to her before work this week, before she had to share.  🙂

I have a backlog of squash from prior weeks that I will roast with the turnips and whole garlic.

Bubbling apple butter. Yummm. 🙂

Today was condiment prep.  The cranberry jelly and salted caramel apple butter as created by Fresh Veggies in the Desert.  I have been telling everyone about your recipe.  Thank you for sharing that one!

Tomorrow is pumpkin pie and squash.

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Zucchini Walnut Bars – meh.

I have a beautiful cookbook I have had for several years dedicated to squash.  However, I do not recall trying any of the recipes.  Now that I have a kitchen drowning in various types of squash, this is the time to seek its guidance.

My sweet tooth has been calling for satisfaction and a recipe for zucchini walnut bars with cream cheese frosting sounded like it would meet the need.  I know this uses the frozen shredded zucchini in the freezer rather than any of my complex of winter squash, but the heart wants what it wants…

I thawed, drained and pressed the shredded zucchini (about 1.5 c).

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a large bowl I mixed:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 3/4 c. corn oil
  • 1.5 t. vanilla extract

In another medium bowl, I combined the following dry ingredients:

  • 1.5 c. unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 t. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 t. ground allspice
  • 1/4 t. ground nutmeg

I stirred the dry ingredients into the egg mixture, then added the zucchini and

  • 1 c. chopped walnuts

After pouring the batter into a greased 9″ x 13″ pan, I baked for 30-35 minutes until the cake was set and the top golden brown.

The recipe called for cream cheese frosting and I thought we had part of a store bought jar of exactly that left over from a school bake sale .  I apparently forgot the allure of a jar of frosting after school, and could not find my topping.

Driving to the store for either cream cheese or frosting didn’t sound enticing.  Besides, I had some ricotta cheese, why won’t that work instead of cream cheese?  I was all out of greek yogurt today.  😉

The frosting recipe called for

  • 3 oz. of cream cheese
  • 2 c. confectioners sugar
  • 2 T. of milk
  • dash of salt
  • 1 t. vanilla extract

I beat the ricotta to soften it, added the sugar and milk to form a smooth topping, then added about 1/4 t. sea salt and the vanilla.  The book said it should be spreadable, but it was runny.  I let it sit a while, then poured it on the cake after the cake had completely cooled.

Looking good.

I’m not a big fan of confectioner’s sugar frostings, and this was no exception. It tastes like a sugar assault, but I thought the kids would like it, maybe.

The zucchini walnut flavors were nice and delicate, but the cake was really dry and crumbly.

Don’t get me wrong, we are obviously still eating it.  We just describe it as our dry zucchini cake.

I believe this is the bad that happens when I actually sort of try to follow a recipe!

My daughter insists the solution is to add chocolate.

If I try it again, I will compare with other recipes to add more moistness, make a more traditional cream cheese frosting, and consider adding chocolate.  🙂

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