Oh, Butternut Squash. How did we not fall in love until now? Now that the farmer’s market is a distant memory, I cling to my last bits of local produce: potatoes, shallots, onions, and of course, winter squash. The last day of the farmer’s market I stocked up as much as possible on things I knew would last in my pantry and of course the ever-strangely-shaped and slightly intimidating winter squash! After making an amazing butternut squash lasagna from Seriously Delish, I found myself wanting to put butternut squash on everything. Enter butternut squash pasta sauce. This recipe is a conglomeration of 4-5 recipes I found on the internet to give me an idea of how to approach it, and then just using the ingredients I deemed delicious.
This is a fairly loose recipe – I find myself tasting it over and over again until I deem it ready. I also heavily recommend the vegetable stock – I tried a chicken stock and I don’t feel like it added enough depth of flavor. I used Better than Better than Bouillon Vegetable Base – which has no MSG and is primarily made from vegetables. Even better? Make your own vegetable stock! I haven’t made my own yet, but it’s on my list. Currently I have bialy dough rising – priorities here people, priorities.
My other recommendations for this recipe:
I put this over shells, orichiette, and also gnocchi. Feel free to sub in any pasta you want. And always, always drop pieces of butternut squash for your dogs, because they will love you forever. And it’s actually good for them. (Until Hami starts wandering around the kitchen crying because he wants more butternut squash and it has all been sauced.)
It’s my last day of vacation. Oh, the sorrow. I’ve only had to work 4 days in the past two weeks and going back to this place called “work” seems like such a bizarre concept. And I woke up this morning thinking about brownies. And coffee. Well, I am always thinking about coffee when I wake up, because I can’t get anything done without a mug of coffee within a few inches of me at all times. So as my last hurrah, I decided to get baking. And eating. Always both.
Once I had sipped my TMNT mug of coffee for a bit all whilst thinking of brownies, I made the executive decision to combine the two. Since I have enough coffee to last until next winter since I bought a bajillion bags from Starbucks after Christmas, so why not throw it into some baked goods? Especially some lovely espresso roast? Why NOT combine my two true loves?
I never liked soup. Frankly, if you ask me, I’ll probably tell you I hate soup. There is nothing satisfactory about drinking a meal to me. Unless that meal happens to be a very large cotton candy milkshake from Stewart’s Shops. However, last year when I began my cooking adventure with Plated, I started making various stews and chilis, and I loved them. So I may just be in soup denial. One thing I really like about making chilis and stews – they’re so very flexible! This recipe came about from having a stockpile of vegetables left over from the farmer’s market. My pantry is still stocked with garlic, onions, shallots, and potatoes as we speak.
I love making this early in the week, especially now that it’s cold. It’s a warm dish that is great for lunch or dinner the next day. And I like to dress it up with various things – cheese, sour cream, cilantro, sometimes even slices of avocado. It’s versatile and delicious – and just FILLED with vegetables. When I eat it I have this strong feeling of adulthood pride because for once, JUST once, I am EATING THE DAILY RECOMMENDED SERVING OF VEGETABLES. That’s a true accomplishment.
On December 24th, 2014 I commenced a baking a marathon. It began upon waking with a large cup of french roast coffee, snowman flannel pajamas, and two dogs following me around the kitchen hoping I was going to drop crumbs. The complete list of baked goods is as follows:
Somehow, I managed to keep to a very strict schedule that went a little something like this:
8:00 am – Sip coffee.
8:05 am – Begin cookies.
8:15 am – Microwave coffee, dammit.
8:30 am – Realize cookies have to be refrigerated for 2 hours, sigh.
8:35 am – Spill an entire bottle of organic vanilla extract all over cookbook and counter, BUT DO NOT CRY.
8:40 – Microwave coffee, this time whilst smelling of vanilla.
9:00 – 9:25am – Brownie making and baking.
10:00 am – Take brownies out, go to the gym smelling of 10,000 vanilla beans.
11:00 am – Begin cranberry cake and interpret 3/4 cup of butter, as three sticks of butter.
11:45 am – 12:45pm – Drain butter from cake pan every ten minutes. Microwave coffee 2 more times.
1:30 pm – Complete cranberry cake, collapse unable to continue with cupcakes.
2:30 pm – Muster up energy to make cupcakes while eating as much raw cupcake batter as possible.
So, my cookbook now smells like vanilla and the cranberry cake was EXTRA buttery – but overall, minor disasters! The brownies Nutella PB Brownies are so, so delicious. The Nutella flavor doesn’t really come through, but it adds to the overall chocolatey, chewy, fudgy texture of the brownies. You could add a bit more Nutella and cut the PB if you want it to shine!
But first, check out the holiday spread…
I live for dessert. It’s no secret that I’ll eat cake for breakfast without any prompting. My old job was really close to a coffee shop that had a plethora of baked goods – and always a fresh cake. So with my morning coffee I’d also grab a slice of carrot cake, or chocolate cake with ganache, or occasionally a slice of cheesecake. Maybe a raspberry filled cupcake, if I was trying to be healthy… Nothing tastes better with a bitter, black, dark roast than a slice of frosted cake. Or a cookie. Or a chunk of chocolate. Or pie. Ahem.
Hence why Joy the Baker‘s new cookbook, Homemade Decadence, is a dream come true. It’s filled with every treat I could ever imagine – from the basics of cake making, to an entire section devoted to brunch. It’s the perfect go-to book for desserts – the cake section (obviously) is my favorite. Joy provides basic recipes for yellow cake and chocolate cake, and then recipes for different frostings. I’m looking forward tackling the Lemon-Honey Yellow Cake.
When I began my adventures in cooking, I mostly tried to steer clear of baking. I have fuzzy memories of attempting to bake “healthy” treats around 2009-2010 and how absolutely horrible they were. Yet I still forced myself to eat the rubbery sugar free, fat free, (joy free…) “brownies.” Then there were some sort of vegan cookies I recall trying to sell people on that were equally as terrible. Also let’s be honest, baking is intimidating. If you delve into serious baking blogs, you suddenly want to buy the most expensive KitchenAid Mixer you can find, silpats, a very precise food scale so you can measure properly, and vanilla extract infused with unicorn horn powder. (Right? That’s a thing?)
With all the expertise that seemed necessary, I didn’t bake a thing until very recently. I started slowly, adapting this recipe for individual baked oatmeals so A and I would have some easy breakfasts we could both bring to work (ours are a bit different – let me know if you want me to go in depth on these!). I mean, it’s hard to mess up oatmeal. After the oatmeal, I moved on to bars making some apple butter bars, then some apple and pear cake, then suddenly I was just quickly whipping up a Vietnamese coffee cake with sweetened condensed milk frosting….and I realized hey, this baking thing, if taken slowly and carefully, is actually something I was pretty good at.
So good in fact, I am in charge of all desserts for Christmas at my house! And with my measly baking skills, I’ve got a few tips for new bakers to help and possibly take the intimidating-factor away
Obviously, these are just the few things I’ve learned in my very short time as a home baker. Tips from one beginner to another. If anyone has any idea how to not make a huge mess and keep your dogs from being covered in flour, please let me know.
Coming up later this week: a review of Joy the Baker‘s latest – with some pics of the cookies I’m baking from it!