Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

If you haven’t had butternut squash soup before, then this is the time and the place my friends.  Fall brings somewhat reasonable prices to the glorious elongated globules of goodness and this is a very easy way to make something that your family and friends will think took a very long time.  Don’t you love that?

First off, I hate peeling squash.  Too many corners… peels too tough, and many of you already know that I have an aversion to peeling.  So I roasted, let it cool and scooped instead.  Here’s the squash before roasting….

Simply cut 2 butternut squashes in half, scoop out the seeds.  Peel and then cut 2 onions in half and brush them all lightly with your favorite oil.  I brushed the bottoms of the onion and the tops of both.

Place on a baking sheet and in a 375 degree oven for about 45 minutes.  I confess this is an estimate.  You want the squash to be soft.

This can be done ahead of time.  Let the squash cool to the point where you can pick it up – or if you’re like me, until the point where patience is no longer functioning and the asbestos fingers inherited from Grandmother Lillian come into play, along with just a little swearing under the breath… which was not inherited from Grandmother Lillian… and scoop out that gorgeous flesh and into a bowl for later use, or right into the high speed blender, or a pot where you can use an immersion blender.  I do not have an immersion blender and have not tested this recipe, so user beware!  I am blessed with a 12 year old Vita Mix.

I placed one whole squash and one whole onion
2 cups of vegetable stock
1/2 a cored but unpeeled apple (I used Gala)
1/4 – 1/2 tsp sage
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)

in the Vita Mix.  I poured out one blender full into a pot on the stove and then repeated.

Even better than bubblin' brown sugar
Oh man is this stuff good.  My 11 year old who is a devoted hater-of-squash ate it.  It wasn’t his favorite, but hey, we can’t have our favorite all the time, can we?  It builds character to suffer through Mom’s favorite once in a while, don’t you think?

Please share your favorite butternut squash recipe, cause I’m on the lookout for more of those glorious globules 🙂

My Sister’s Panties

The Sis sisters – Little Sis and BiggSis – made an interesting discovery by looking at the searches that lead people to our blog.  Apparently, more than a few people out there in the blog-o-sphere are looking for “my sister’s panties”.

Yes, you read right.  They either typed wrong, or they really want to know.

We thought we would bring blessed relief to the searchers and give you an inside view, so to speak, on the underpinnings of My Sister’s Pantry.  Turns out both of us prefer Hanes Her Way (unless there is something cheaper on sale) cotton panties, sometimes in patterns and colors just for fun.  Yes, they are kind of cheap, and the elastic frays before it should, but we would rather buy avocados than new underwear…  Which also means we wear them beyond wear, or should I say beyond underwear.   Think  avocados People!

So for all those looking for my sister’s panties… or for MY sister’s panties….here they are!

I can bring home the bacon….

And fry it up like tofu…

SO can we please get back to the food now?

When It Just Doesn’t Work, Add Chocolate

Some days it just doesn’t work. Okay, some weeks it just doesn’t work. Here at Lake Ouch My Head, we’ve had a week that really hasn’t worked. The twins have brought home the first bug of the season and while it’s relatively mild in actual symptoms (aside from the headache), it has had all of us feeling very tired, dopey and more than a little cranky. Cooking adventures have been poorly planned, poorly executed, and largely underwhelming. The lesson for me as home chef this week has been one of Lazarus meals – a quick resurrection in order to avoid wasting the ingredients and in order to avoid having to eat out because things have gone so far awry….

Looks like tofu, right? Chickpea flour, salt, water… go figure.

Earlier in the week I attempted some chickpea flatbread and while making it a little voice told me that the batter was too thin. THIS is the moment when things went wrong. I should have listened to the little voice. It was, in fact, too thin and the pan I cooked it in was too small. The end result?

Looked like tofu, cooked like tofu.

A VERY strange custard-like consistency that I managed to re-fashion like tofu for a lunch for me and Mr. Little Sis the following day. The children, having heard me dub it a mistake, would have none of it.

Another flub was less dramatic in its outcome, and in fact it wasn’t a flub, it was just a “meh” kind of dish. I made mid-week pancakes (we usually only have fresh pancakes on weekends, I make plenty, we freeze the rest for M-F) because the children had a day off from school. They roundly rejected the idea of pumpkin pancakes (that I’ve been drooling over everywhere on the blogoshpere) and so I thought I would attempt yet another homemade syrup substitute (insert dead horse for children to beat here). Remembering the date cream that Big Sis made and that I enjoyed so much, I rifled through the dried fruit in the pantry and came up with figs and cherries. That sounded pretty darned good to me. So I blended them together (1/2 c figs, 1/3 c cherries, approximately 1 c water, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a squirt of vanilla). I ended up with a fruit butter consistency with a, well fig and cherry flavor. It was yummy, but it didn’t knock my socks off. When I put it on my pepita pancakes (like my pecan pancakes, but with pepitas because that’s what I had), it was good, but not necessarily post-worthy if you get my drift. No major revelation here. Annoyed by yet another waste or at least poor use of ingredients, I racked my brain for a way to use this fig cherry butter. I ate a piece of fig cherry butter on toast while I considered my options. It was very good, but not stunning. And then it struck me. Fruit butter, a dwindling supply of baked goods in the house… cherries… chocolate. Oh yes.

Chocolate Cherry Bombdies (GF, V)

  • 3/4 c cherry fig butter
  • 3/4 c brown sugar
  • 2 eggs (I used flax)
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 2 T oil
  • 1 1/4 c buckwheat flour
  • 1/4 c oat bran
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 3 c oats
  • 1/4 c chopped dried cherries
  • 1/2 c choc chips (I used semi-sweet)

Serious five year old whisking.

Preheat oven to 350.  Mix wet ingredients in large bowl.  Combine dry ingredients in another bowl.  Enlist a small person who needs something to do to whisk the dry ingredients (they really like whisks) and take really weird pictures while they do.  Add dry to wet and stir or use mixer until well combined.  Scoop into ungreased 9×13  baking pan and spread out.  Mine did not cover the entire pan.  If you like a thicker bombdie, use a square cake pan.  If your children are not watching, add nuts.  Mine were helping, so we went nutless, ahem.  Bake for approximately 20-25 minutes.  Mine were in for 25 and are crisp on top and a little chewy in a good way.  My oven is admittedly a little wonky, so I suggest you keep an eye on yours starting at 20 minutes.  Remove from oven, cool in pan.  Cut into blondie sized bars and enjoy.  Resurrected baked goods.  Delish!

Sushi Salad

I used to make sushi.  Truth is I wasn’t very good at the rolling part.  It took a long time and my sushi rolls always came out humpy and bulge-y (as Max the rabbit would say).  Huge rolls that fall apart when you try to eat them.  Still tasty though, and good for you, especially if in your rigid approach to grains you insist on using brown rice.  So, I got to thinking…. If it’s going to fall apart anyway (due in part to the use of brown rice), and after said falling apart we will shovel the remains out of a bowl of soy sauce and wasabi… Well then why not just throw in the towel by throwing all of the sushi ingredients into a bowl?  Why not indeed?

So… what you need to make a sushi salad (if you like cold) or a sushi bowl (if you like it hot) is:

– sheets of nori (paper like seaweed)
– sticky, slightly sweet rice
– wasabi (which can be purchased as a powder or a paste)
– soy sauce or Bragg’s liquid aminos
– some type of fish like product :  I used lox.  (I used to use fake crab meat but am uncomfortable with the product now – but hey it’s your call!)  You could also use cooked shrimp, or if you are really brave, raw tuna or something.  I don’t go there because I took parasitology back in undergraduate days.
fresh crispy vegetables like cucumbers, carrots, peppers, avocado
and if you like, some lightly sauteed greens.

Cook the rice as normal and when it’s getting close to done, heat equal parts of rice vinegar and sugar to melt and combine.  I made 1.5 cups of dry rice and used 2 Tbsp. of each.  I added it a bit at a time and didn’t use all of the vinegar/sugar.  So that gives you a starting point.  After the rice has absorbed the water, add the mixture and stir.

If you choose,sautee some greens in a touch of your fave oil with a smidge of sesame oil.  I used kale and I also threw in some sesame seeds.

Now either let the rice and greens cool or proceed for warm sushification.

Chop your veggies into salad sized chunks (avocado is HIGHLY recommended)

Mix your wasabi powder to package directions.  You can then add it some soy sauce or Bragg’s to make a little dressing.   This is a very personal mixing as wasabi is hot and different products will pack different punches.  Try mixing a little of the two and then tasting with a little rice.  Set aside.

Mix ingredients to your hearts content, making sure to sneak some of the greens into little people’s bowls under the rice 😉

Add torn pieces of nori as you pile in ingredients.  I you add it all at one time you will get chunks of nori which most people probably won’t care for.

dried bits of sunshine and the sea

After all is in the bowl carefully apply soy or Bragg’s with or without wasabi.  My son does not do wasabi… I love it.

Place the bowl in a strange place to catch some of the last light of this beautiful autumn day here in middle TN and enjoy.

Humpy and Bulge-y looks much better in a bowl I think.

When You DO Need a Treat

I struggle with the treat area.  There, I said it.  My kids have been the fortunate recipients of mostly unprocessed or only lightly processed snack foods, but I have, in my forty some-odd years on the planet, consumed a fair number of packaged snack foods.  The difficulty that this poses for me as a parent is that I am vulnerable to the argument that perhaps I am being TOO restrictive, that I am depriving my kids (OH NOOOOOO, ANYTHING BUT DEPRIVING YOUR KIDS!!!!) of some sort of necessary and later to be romanticized pleasure of childhood.  So I struggle to find balance.  They don’t get A LOT of the things that their classmates and friends get, but I attempt to frame it, as I do with myself, as a turn toward the abundance and delicious satisfaction that real food, even as snack or treat, can provide.

Healthful twin lunches. Healthy twin kids.

My recent efforts, as a reflection of my desire to keep my kids on the attitude of gratitude end of the spectrum as regards their lunchtime totage, have focused on the treat portion of our little stainless steel container.  As it turns out, packing lunch has been something of a guilty pleasure for me.  The picky child in our family takes her Tinkerbell lunchbox everyday with the utmost trust that I have included SOMETHING that she will eat.  And I generally do.  And the funny thing is, she eats it.  She eats most parts of whatever I pack.  She eats things she won’t eat at home, and when she gets home, she finishes whatever’s left…. hot diggity.  So I have no guilt about providing a small not so sweet in their tins.  I have made two lovely discoveries this week that I thought I would share… one that is gluten (but not chocolate) free, and one that has gluten, but is vegan, and I must say, quite awesome.  I’m eating some right now as I type.  On to the goodness…

What do you mean what happened to the first row? What first row?

First up: Gluten Free Blondies – adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie’s Chocolate Chip Blondies. These babies are BEAN based; that’s right, you heard me, bean based.  So I’m thinking I need to whip up a lunchbox yummy and looking at my fridge to see what I should use up and rolling my eyes at the container of white beans from the previous night’s dinner… turns out they were just what I needed.  I love it when that happens.

See those little beanies in there?

The changes I made to Katie’s recipe here are pretty minimal.  I cut the sugar to 1/2 c from 3/4 c.  For the grain I used a mixture of flax and rolled oats. I added 1T of applesauce because my batter seemed too dry (I used homecooked rather than canned beans).  I went a little light on the chips to no ill effect and I added 1/4 c of pecans. The procedure is super easy. Preheat oven to 350. Mix ingredients with the exception of chips and nuts (if you use them, which you should) in a food processor until the batter is smooth. Add chips and nuts and stir to incorporate. Place in 8×8 greased or lined baking pan. Bake for around 30 minutes. They will be softer than your average blondie – sort of fudge-y and awesome. If you’re smart enough to eat one warm, you’ll get the reward of the melty chip drip that is part of the blondie experience. Delish.

Turns out beans weren’t the only thing I needed to use up. With the onset of the school year (and cooler temps), our green smoothie intake has diminished and my banana purchases got ahead of me. Super over-ripe bananas can only mean one thing in my house… banana bread. Oh yes. This recipe is adapted from one I got from a dear friend who first made it for us during a delicious fall weekend on a farm in the Catskills. She had adapted the recipe from one she’d had given to her by someone else… Honestly neither one of us has any idea at this point where it originally came from. On the off chance that it was yours and you still recognize it, let me know and I’ll credit you.

I was encouraged to limit my pecans so we could try it “both ways.”

Intensely Good Banana Bread

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup regular oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup dark molasses
  • 2 large eggs (I used flax)
  • 1 cup mashed ripe banana (about 2 bananas)
  • 1/4 c peanut (or other nut) butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pecans for the top

Preheat oven to 350°.  Combine flours, oats, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.  Place sugar, applesauce, oil, and molasses in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 1 minute). Add eggs, banana, nut butter, and vanilla; beat until blended. Add flour mixture; beat at low speed just until moist. Spoon batter into a greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan. Decorate with pecans. Bake at 350° for 1 hour and 5 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack; remove from pan. Eat some while it is warm and the outer crust is at its peak. Cool completely on wire rack before storing.  Amazing.

Need more ideas for healthier sweets?  Try these gluten free chocolate chip cookies, these gluten free coconut almond milk mash cookies, honey milk balls, apple oat muffins.

This week we’ve joined Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Blog Carnival. Check out the other real food entries here.

You Deserve a Treat! – Coca Cola at School?

“We should treat ourselves.”
“What a treat.”
“That would be a treat.”
“Let’s give the kids a treat.”
“Trick or treat.”

My Grandmother told me that when she was a little girl living on a tobacco farm, she’d sometimes get to go visit her uncle. He kept a tin of saltines and a tub of peanut butter and he would let the kids have some ‘as a treat’.  It was indeed a big treat for them.  That same grandmother used to let me have some ‘Co-cola’ and Ritz crackers.  To me, that was a big treat.

Treats sure have come a long way.

It is hard to think of a place or an activity short of hiking where junk food beyond my Grandmother’s wildest imaginings of a ‘treat’ are not available or not furnished.

For the second year in a row, I was informed that soda would be used as a reward in my child’s school reading program.  You can imagine after reading about my reaction to the changes in Breyer’s ice cream, what THAT sounded like.

The good thing about facing the same troublesome plan 2 years in a row, is that my ducks, in the form of research and written communications, were also in a row.  Now I should say that we are very fortunate to live in a county with an excellent school system with which I am extremely pleased.  The teachers are thoughtful, dedicated professionals who are just trying to get the reluctant readers in their classrooms to get reading.  I get it.  What I don’t get is the lag time between all of the research condemning soda and  a concordant approach to providing soda to children.

But there it is.  Old habits die hard.  We all like treats.  We like to provide them and we like to consume them.  In fact, if you listen to Madison Ave, we all deserve a treat, today… several times a day… what the heck, how about right now?

So if you are faced with the problem of soda and/or candy, chips, etc. being offered as rewards, incentives, or just because all of the little angels truly do deserve a treat today… here is a suggestion that worked for me.  Twice.  Go to your county’s public school website.  Look for information about policies.  It may be under school board (that’s where I found mine), or it maybe under something that sounds legalistic.  My county has a wellness policy for students that states that at the K-8 level, food should not often be used as a reward, and if it is, it should be healthy food.  In a nutshell that’s what it says.  Both years I emailed this policy to one or more teachers involved in the dreaded reading program, along with many compliments and appreciations over the difficult job that these teachers perform (and I meant them… I used to be one, and we have been blessed with GREAT teachers here).  Both times the plan has been changed.  This year the principle is discussing with the cafeteria manager if they can come up with something that fits the bill and they will forward a list when they have a plan.

It will be a treat to see a list devoid of soda…. and I hope other processed foods.  Those of us who are concerned about our children’s diets are just going to have keep speaking up.  In public, at gatherings, when planning children’s activities, wherever the group hasn’t  yet realized that soda is not a treat, it’s a poison.  It is not a sustaining beverage, it is a poison.  Soda is a poison that is weakening this nation.  I know that is high drama, but I believe it to be true.  We had better start fighting back because the beverage companies have a powerful ally beyond lawyers and lots of money.  The even more powerful ally that they have is our desire to give and get treats.  I”ve heard it said that this probably stems from our hunter/gatherer ancestors who had to take advantage of a honeycomb or fruit tree in season, because that ‘treat’ would soon be gone with no more sugar in sight for months at a time.  Whatever it is, it’s powerful.  Treat yourself to some research about soda and the power of Big Food.  It is scary stuff.

Your child does deserve a treat.  Give them the best treat there is – the healthiest body possible to help them achieve their greatest potential?   It will be a treat to see all the great things they create and do and live!

Using Those Summer Veggies

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a windowsill like this. The last few gardening seasons I was beset by squirrels, bugs, overwatering, drought, and disease to the tune of losing the whole crop. For a Maryland gardener, the tomato crop makes the year. My lack of success with the red jewels made me swear on more than one occasion that I would not be gardening anymore – too much trouble, too disappointing over and over. This year has been better – I’ve still lost a lot of tomatoes to the whims of nature (my tomatoes are lined up ripening on my neighbor’s branch where the squirrels live), but have learned a bit more about proper watering and pest and disease control. So I finally have a crop. The windowsill has been full for the better part of the last month, and while I’d like to say I’ve been industrious enough to can some, I haven’t. We’re still not overrun by tomatoes, and so I’ve been enjoying them like the nightshade glutton that I am.

So we’ve had caprese salad, with dairy and without. We’ve greatly enjoyed this super combo of nectarines, tomatoes, and fresh basil from our pal at Emmy Cooks. We’ve made fresh tomato pasta sauce. We’ve had tomato sandwiches (with herbed naioli instead of mayo.   We’ve had them in a vegetable soup with fresh kale (which I can’t believe I haven’t posted before…I will.) We’ve done just about everything we can without baking or stewing them (I just don’t like it, there I said it). But our abundance and overplanning for a weekend lunch with friends again presented me with the situation where there was both produce that is at its peak and really demands to be eaten while it’s spectacular, and produce that really should be used before it goes to waste. And so, I give you…

Grilled Corn and Fresh Tomato  Summer Crudo

  • Kernels cut from 3 ears of grilled corn*
  • 2 large or three medium tomatoes, chopped coarsely
  • 1 can (drained, rinsed) or 1.5 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 3 handfuls fresh spinach chopped coarsely
  • 1 small handful fresh basil chopped
  • a couple of handfuls of leftover peas (or whatever you have lurking in your fridge)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 T olive oil
  • fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, made small however you like

No great complication here.  Just put it all in a bowl and stir gently to combine without destroying the tomatoes.  And then, when you realize it’s back to school night and you’ve failed to plan properly, you can put it on whole wheat penne with a dollop of sunflower cheese spread or parm…. Delish, as you can see from the picture I took when I remembered I wanted to take one AFTER I started eating, classy, eh?

The best part about  summer crudo?  You can use pretty much any vegetables you have to hand AND you can eat it with just about anything, on anything, under anything.  Totally flexible and yummy as demonstrated by my lunch the following day: summer crudo and mini-neatloaves. Delish on day 2 as well.

* A Note on Grilling Corn: When I asked around for opinions on the best way to grill corn, I was astonished at the number of responses I received. The variations on method were endless as well, some quite complex – husking the corn, soaking the husks, returning the cobs to the soaked husks and cooking them inside the husk. When presented with such a variety of opinions, I followed my usual inclinations and followed my own simple intuition. We shucked the corn, brushed it with olive oil and sprinkled with salt. Lay on a preheated grill and watched like a hawk. Cooking time is minimal and turning is recommended. Brown grill marks are yummy, blackening not so much. Feel free to make it more complicated, but we loved it just like this.

Breyer’s : Business as Usual

Holy Toledo Batman!  Is that really All-Natural Ice Cream?  Even the carton that says it is all-natural ice cream?…

A couple of developments along the Breyer’s front that I’d like to share before they melt…. although Frozen Dairy Dessert goes a lot longer without melting than does ice cream!  Perhaps that is the sole positive about frozen dairy dessert, if you don’t mind the gummy taste or un-natural ingredients.

At any rate, astute reader DMC in DC informed me and Little Sis that a class action lawsuit was filed against Breyer’s  because of the presence of processed ingredients (in particular alkalized cocoa) in their “all-natural” ice cream.  There is supposed to be a final fairness hearing on September 12.  Hey that was yesterday!!  I’ll let you know if I learn anything more.  Unfortunately it is too late to file a claim, which according to DMC is no accident, i.e. the $2.5 million that Breyer’s promised in restitution will not be fully distributed because there isn’t enough time for claimants to file, but I have no dates for the original posting so don’t know if they were extra bad or not.

Clearly, the ingredients of our food is catching our attention.  So many of you have commented on this issue.  We get hits from all over the world everyday on the Breyer’s posts.  People don’t like that these changes were made despite a product reputation for wholesomeness built over decades of our purchases.

We all need a wake up call now and then, don’t we?  I sure did.

Dissenting Democrat, a fellow wordpress blogger mentioned us in his blog because he too is disappointed by Breyer’s, er… Unilever’s desertion of the Breyer’s model of a good, all natural product.  He tells us he likes politics, but he LOVES ice cream.  Real ice cream that is.  You can check out his blog here.

This is a pretty big recall in geographic scope, so I wanted to pass it along.

Say It Ain't So Already

I tend to make a quick note when I see something about a food recall.  So many of them are of obscure products or brands that affect only a tiny portion of the country so I usually blow them off.  But this is pretty big, FYI:

September 12, 2012 – Whole Foods Market announces that it is recalling ricotta salata sold in 21 states and Washington, D.C. that came from its supplier Forever Cheese Inc. of Long Island City, NY.  Forever Cheese recalled this cheese product because it may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. Listeria monocytogenes is an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

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