Nutella Muffins with Cinnamon Sugar (and Eggnog!)

 Nutella makes me happy. 
I love licking the knife off after making my daughter a 'tella wrap or dipping pretzels in it (best snack ever!).

Around the holidays eggnog also enters our house. My husband hates it so there is usually extra. I used our leftover eggnog to make these spiced delicious muffins with a Nutella surprise in them. I also made them using regular milk and it works just as well. This reminds me of a Good Housekeeping recipe my mom made when I was little. The muffins were dipped in cinnamon sugar and it always felt like we had been extra good to get something so sugar-y for breakfast. To balance out the topping on this muffin the batter is actually relatively healthy. I use a small amount of brown sugar, applesauce replaces any butter or oil and by switching out the egg & milk for available substitutes these could easily be vegan-friendly.

Perfect for breakfast when it looks like this out:

Nutella Muffins with Cinnamon Sugar
(makes 12) These taste best eaten warm when the filling is gooey so I don't usually make extra for later.

1/2 cup applesauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup milk or eggnog
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups flour
Nutella (roughly 1/2-1 tsp per muffin- 12 total)

For topping:
2 TBS butter
3 TBS sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 400. These muffins are going to bake for 5 minutes at 400 and 10 more at 350. I know it's a pain but it creates a nice crust around the muffin and keeps the Nutella soft. I experimented with one temperature but it causes the Nutella to cook into the batter which I didn't want.

2. Mix together applesauce and brown sugar. Add egg, spices, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Once blended add flour and stir just until it's worked in. Don't overmix as this is already a dense batter.

3. Spray a muffin tin and scoop one spoonful of batter into the bottom of each tin to cover it. Go through and add a small spoon of Nutella to each right in the middle. Then top with an additional spoonful of batter dropped right onto the Nutella. It will ooze down and cover the Nutella. The batter will yield just enough to make 12 muffins so make sure not to overfill!

4. Bake for 5 minutes at 400. Turn the oven down to 350 and bake an additional 10 minutes. Remove from oven and turn out the muffins to cool. Let them sit for 5 minutes.

5. Melt the butter in the microwave in a small bowl. Realistically you only need 1 TBS but then it's really hard to dip the muffins. In another small bowl mix the cinnamon and sugar. Once the muffins have cooled dip the tops first into the melted butter, then roll them in the cinnamon sugar. Serve immediately and with lots of napkins for the kids! Enjoy :)


Remembering to Say "I Love You"

I have rewritten this over and over.

I am sorry that parents lost their children. Sisters and brothers lost their playmates and grandparents lost their pride and joy.


Quick Eggplant "Quiche"

Eggplant is hot right now. Not just the vegetable (although I have seen assorted "arty" eggplant pics everywhere) but the color. Last week I picked up two eggplants and they've been on the counter looking at me as I deliberated on what to do with them. Last night they became.... delicious. I made a quick and easy "quiche".


'Twas Midway Through December

'Twas a night in December, the month half complete
All the children were sleeping, a quite major feat;
The stockings were still stored up in the attic,
Decorating with tiny children had proven problematic;


A New Nursing Tool - Premama Vitamins

Breastfeeding isn't easy. I thought it would just happen but that serene cameo never happened with my first two babies. With my son he arrived in a quick and frantic hour, 5 weeks early. After he was rushed off to NICU he was given formula before I saw him. They continued to give him formula and at 22 and two thousand miles from my family I didn't know my rights. He never adapted to breastfeeding and after pumping for a bit to supplement the formula and a round of mastitis that hospitalized me we stopped trying. Years later I gave birth to my lovely little Yasmina. She was a feisty one (and still is) and breastfeeding her was similar to trying to hold a feral cat still. Yet we somehow made it to 3 months at which point in time I went back to my travel job and had to wean her. When Yasmina turned a year old we found out we were pregnant with our Hurricane baby, Sohayla. I've now been able to experience happy cuddly nursing moments. She cuddles and has a hearty (yet gentle) appetite even now at six months. It's important to me to model a good nursing relationship to my kids in the hopes that when they're older they will also try breastfeeding with their kids.


Turkey and Babies and Truck Stops- Oh My!

This last 10 days has been a whirlwind of fur, cleaning & driving. We had the "untraditional" Thanksgiving this year. To make a long story short my father-in-law is going in for a transplant and we flew down Thanksgiving Eve to see him, introduce him to the baby, and drive his dogs back up to Vermont so we can care for them during his recovery period.


A Pin-spirational Boutique in Ft. Worth

A few short weeks ago I was in Dallas for the Family Travel Conference. It was inspiring, educational, and a great chance to catch up with tons of my fellow TravelingMom bloggers (and meet wonderful new friends). After the conference was over I was graciously invited to come on over and see what Ft. Worth had to offer (they're very hospitable down there in Texas).


How to Put Your Toddler to Bed

Aaaahh, toddler bedtime. The time of night that takes up pretty much the whole night, and sometimes has an encore performance at 3am that culminates in a little person joining you in bed. This little person will tenderize your kidneys with their tiny (yet hard and sharp feet) until the wee hours of the morning when they will pry your eyelids open and state "You 'wake?".


Turkey Stuffed Delicata Squash with Mushroom Gravy

I love Thanksgiving- the cooking, the family, the traditions and the flavors. A pile of delicata squash has been taunting me for weeks now. After canning slices of about 15 pounds of it I was at a loss with what to do to the rest. I've seen recipes for stuffed delicata before but always in "boat" form. Whether you just like Thanksgiving flavors or you're aiming for a smaller holiday with an easier turkey main dish this stuffed delicata looks chic on the plate and pairs well with traditional flavors. From a budget standpoint 1 lb of meat is stretched very far here. In our household I sometimes use only 4 squash and then cook the extra meat with a little cheese on top in two ramekins for toddler meals.


Banana Chocolate Chip Chia Lactation Cookies

I'm currently a nursing mama and like some other moms I know I sometimes feel that I'm not producing enough. It seems to be a common concern, and while I know that many schools of thought say "You're fine. Your body knows what your baby needs." I need to actually do something about it to feel sane. So I started making lactation cookies. I mean c'mon, it's an excuse to eat cookies and feel like I'm doing something good! I really can feel a difference when I use these especially if I eat one shortly before pumping.


20 Chore Tuesday- After Trip Edition

Today is the definition of insanity. After an amazing 4 days in Dallas and Ft. Worth at the Family Travel Conference I am launched back into the real world. Articles to be written, clients to catch up with (especially since the internet was down M-F of last week!), new connections to follow up on in timely fashion and of course the associated laundry to be done of a weekend away.


20 Chore Tuesday- No-Internet Edition

Well this will be short one... internet's down and a lot of my list relies on it so I'll be helping my husband stack firewood then heading downtown.


Peanut Butter Banana Muffins with Honey

These muffins are "healthy" but don't taste it. How do I know this? My husband had a training for his new job and a team of burly snowmakers at a ski resort polished these off proclaiming them "delicious". I ate a few too and there is something nostalgic about these muffins. Maybe it's just that pb & honey sandwiches with 'nanas were always a childhood go to. With few ingredients and a short cook time these are super simple.


My Last Minute Toddler Halloween Costume

Call us bad parents but my husband and I have a theory that adhering to holidays isn't really important for babies. When folks do it, it's more for them than their kids. We decided that we're not spending much on holidays until the kids are old enough to remember them. Last Halloween my daughter was sick so she never wore the bumblebee outfit that I had bought on resale. Her first Halloween she was a jellyfish. I used a terrycloth onesie, stuck sticky velcro around the waist then sewed ribbons onto a wide piece of ribbon and put velcro on the back of that. The hat was made by a family friend.

Our jellyfish being held by our skeleton ninja (minus the skeleton mask).


20 Chore Tuesdays, The Thankful Edition

Last year Vermont was hit with the full wrath of Irene. In the aftermath, we heard lots of commentary about how the storm was "hyped" and jokes about hurrication days off from school and work. Meanwhile in Vermont towns went weeks without power and the citizens banded together to help each other. (And some cute babies were made- including ours. Read here.)

So today... today I am thankful. Thankful that we didn't need our bathtubs full of water or the food or flashlights or our full tanks of gas. Thankful that Vermonters took the storm seriously and got ready. I am also thinking about our friends and family in other areas. I was glued to the laptop until late into the night last night hoping that everyone was okay, thinking about the NICU babies being evacuated (my son was a NICU baby 8 years ago), and wishing that some folks treating this like a joke didn't have to learn such hard lessons to realize that preparedness is important!

Meanwhile, in Vermont... this is what my house looks like...

Hurricane Prep was a priority and loads of laundry where done in a mad rush in case the power went out.  

Link up to 20 Chore Tuesday: 
20 chore tuesday

Today I Need To:

* Send out emails to potential Twitter Party Panelists.
* Send out full document to those who confirm.
* Send holiday images in for use on our Pinterest/Facebook for Traveling Mom Party Promotion.
* Type up a client invoice & deduct hours from check paid.
* Fold laundry. (times about 5)
* Put away laundry.
* Put sheets on bed. My husband already did this.
* Wash dishes.
* Put away dishes in strainer.
* Put away clean dishes in dishwasher.
* Turn fridge and freezer temps back up.
* Make a casserole with the cooked hamburger meat. Ended up making Cheeseburger Risotto per special request. "Chee-bur sotto peez?" Husband actually finished cooking it while I ran to get the kids.
* Wash and sanitize pump parts.
* Empty out pantry so my husband can put up shelves this week. His back is all funky so we decided to save this for another day.
* Make sauerkraut. 
* Empty off canning table so I can put pantry contents on it.
* Bring out recycling.
* Can the delicata squash.
* Generally neaten the living room. 
* Put legos upstairs in Yasmina & Sohayla's room and bring down something else.
* Work on front hallway area- I need to put out hats/mittens etc and neaten. 
* Load dishwasher. 
* Say hi and comment to all other 20 Chore Tuesday folks.

UPDATE: I ended up scrapping a lot of this when I realized Yasmina needed a Halloween costume. A little time later and some late night sewing machine time and yay! Costume accomplished.

Good luck to all and I hope you are staying safe and warm!


Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars AKA Party In Your Mouth

Pinterest viewing can be fattening to your health. I saw a picture on Pinterest of a Chocolate Peanut Bar (they called it a Reese's bar but I really don't want to be sued by Reese's since it contains no actual Reese's) and it reminded me of my Starbucks days. I worked at Starbucks for six years. It was a great job in college and I have fond memories of sitting down after a shift with a hot cocoa and a chocolate peanut butter bar to study. Plus the recipe called for graham cracker crumbs, which leads me to the question- Why the heck are crumbs sold in such big boxers? I was more than happy to use up the rest of the box I had on these. I think it was originally from a cheesecake a few years ago.

The original recipe can be found on Let's Dish Recipes

I adapted it slightly to use up some extra Hershey bars from s'more season and after doing the first batch realized I would halve the amounts of the peanut butter layer to make a more balanced bar. Also, I make it in a square Pyrex not the 9*13 that was originally recommended. This recipe is by no means a healthy recipe so it's best made when you know it will be shared. Otherwise (if you're like me) you'll just grab a piece every time you open the fridge. 

1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup peanut butter (I spray the measuring cup with cooking spray so the pb slides out.)
1 cup confectioner's sugar
4 Hershey bars (1.55 oz bars) broken up into the squares
1 more large spoonful of peanut butter (roughly 2 TBS)

1. Melt the butter in a microwave or pan. In a bowl mix the melted butter, 1/2 cup of peanut butter, confectioner's sugar and graham cracker crumbs and stir until well mixed into a paste. Spray a square glass pan (9*9) with cooking spray then line the bottom with the paste. Even out the top so it is as smooth as possible. 

2. In a microwave safe bowl heat the pieces of Hershey bar and the large spoonful of peanut butter until the bars are melt-y. Stir and put back in for a few more seconds if you feel like it's not smooth enough. Just be careful, burnt chocolate does not taste good! Spread the chocolate peanut butter mixture on top of the peanut butter layer and smooth out the top.

3. Put the pan in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Cut into squares and eat with friends! Beware they are addictive! I have found that storage in the fridge is best but taking them out and setting them on the counter for 5 minutes makes them easiest to cut. 

And yes I keep a fork & knife in the pan for ease of eating :) The fact that this many remain 4 days after I made them is a testament to my willpower.

I always have lots of help eating them.... 


20 Chore Tuesday- Paperwork & Not Enough Time

I feel like I've already wasted hours of the day. The baby was up at 6am but the toddler slept late so I'm just now getting back from bringing them to daycare. Time to get rolling.

20 chore tuesday


1. Send in timesheets.
2. Answer emails & messages about meetings this week.
3. Send Twitter party management email.
4. Update family calendar.
5. Find baby's social security card. (When it came in the mail my toddler saw it and colored on it. So I hid it in a "safe" place. Now I can't find it.) Still looking for this!!! AAARRGHHH!
6. Finish paperwork that needs said social security info. Filled out except for the stupid social. 
7. Apply for insurance. This no health insurance thing is getting really old and my husband's work has still not sent any info on COBRA. This was a hugely long ridiculously stupid ordeal. Grr.
8. Prepare bill payments to send for internet & plow. 


9. Read this week's reading. 
10. Print last week's presentation and put in binder with the notes I took.


11. Buy shelving for pantry.
12. Buy potty treats. 
13. Costco (Thursday)
14. Post office. 
15. Soda Stream Cartridge Replacements (Thursday)
16. Changing Table to Kids Resale Store (Plans changed on this one since we need a friend to help my husband get it downstairs. It's too heavy for just me and him.)


17. Load dishwasher with canning jars & run right before using them.
18. Puree roasted butternut squash & put in freezer pints. 
19. Make list for Costco.
20. Hang onions to dry.
21. Compost out to heap.
22. Start some soups.

Normally I would say- time to drink coffee. However, the dog tipped over my mug so now I get to say 23. Clean stain out of carpet.


A Trip For Mom- Getting the Family Ready

Business travel. It was a part of my vocabulary for so long that it was just called "work". It was my version of Up In The Air. I had miles and stayed one night in each city. Some days I wake up to my life now and have truly realize how different they are. Next month this mama will go on a business trip to Dallas for the Family Travel Conference and where my travel used to be the norm there are more kids involved now and we're out of practice so I've already thought about what I need to do to get ready.

Plan meals and snacks. My husband is capable of food preparation so I don't want to insinuate that I think that all men left to their own devices need meals left so the kids eat something other than Cocoa Puffs. However, as any parent of a baby and a toddler can attest to when they outnumber you it's best to have a plan in place. For breakfasts I fill little microwave safe tupperware containers with 1/4 cup of oatmeal (from bulk) each, add 1/2 cup water, microwave, stir in a spoon full of Nutella & boom the toddler has breakfast. Another favorite is pancakes so whenever I make a batch I take a few extra, freeze them, and then bag them up. A minute in the microwave and they're ready to go. Snacks are portioned out into plastic containers in the pantry so they can be handed immediately to cranky toddlers, especially handy when you're simultaneously feeding a baby. For dinners, I'll be stocking my freezer with Homemade Freezer Burritos & Kale Chicken Burritos for my husband and frozen gnocchi for the toddler.  Round this all out with freezer biscuits and a couple loaves of homemade bread and they'll make it out fed and sane.

Clean out the car & preload it with "going out" stuff. The brave man that he is my husband brings the kids out into public. He and I have both realized that behaviors tend to be better when our kids are out and about. The car will be cleaned out and I'll be leaving a tote of water, snacks, extra hats & mittens, a change of clothes for everyone (including him), and the handy dandy child entertainment center that I created out of one of those "as seen on tv" wonderfiles. Add a baby carrier and our Maclaren Traveler stroller base to that and he is ready to go anywhere.

Make a list for myself and keep updating it. Start packing my suitcase. True confession, I am a last minute packer. I may have lists and ideas but I start chucking things in a suitcase the day I leave. I know that I can't do this anymore. It used to be fine for me to run around like a maniac last second but now it stresses the kids out. So, if I want an easy exit I need to stay on target and start putting things in the suitcase as I think of them. If it's something I'll need before the trip I need to add it to my list so I remember to pack it later.

Let folks know I'll be out of town. Call it some kind of crazy gender stereotype but when I head out of town and folks know it my husband is inundated with offers of assistance. Mysteriously when my husband heads off for multiple days this does not happen for me.... extensive research must be done on this anomaly.

Set up the "battle station". This one is definitely specific to our family but our home is three small floors. The bottom one is one large room with a bathroom that we use as a guest area/play area. The dog and rabbit cages are down there as is a couch and bed. When one person goes out of town a lot of times we use this space to "hunker down" with the kids. It's like a mini vacation. We put outfits in the drawers down there, diapers and potty accessories are set up down there, the pack and play is opened up and toys are set out. Then everyone can sleep in the same room and eyes are on both kids at all times.

What do you do when you travel without your family?


20 Chore Tuesday- CANSTRAVAGANZA!

It's an October Miracle folks. The whole household stayed in bed until 830a this morning. This NEVER happens. EVER. (Happy dance.) This was aided by the fact that I don't need to go into the roasters like I usually do on Tuesday's. Now as I bring myself back down to reality I remember that I have two giant bins of apples on my front porch that need to be addressed. Last weekend we did a truckload apple sale and since most of the apples are drops they need to be used up very quickly before they go mushy. These are not pretty pie apples. These are serious canned for winter applesauce and apple butter apples. On Sunday my husband and I processed 42 pounds of apples. We need to do about twice that today. (Click the button below to link up!)

20 chore tuesday

Kitchen (it's got to be clean to can)

1. Run dishwasher and put dishes away.
2. Take the 800 million jars of stuff that I've canned and put it on the kitchen table so the counters are clear.
3. On a related note- have husband measure pantry for shelves. (Yes, I am aware that this was on my list about 3 Tuesdays ago but it never got done.)
4. Wash pots and pans in sink. Thank you to my husband for doing this :)


5. Send a few flats of jars through the dishwasher to prep them.
6. Have husband start peeling a large quantity of apples. (As a general rule 1/3 of the apple is "waste weight". We peeled 42 pounds of apples the other day- this yielded 28 lbs of recipe ready apple matter.) 71.5 lbs done total!
7. Can the apple butter out of the crockpot so that I can start more applesauce in there.
8.Wishful thinking- get 21 lbs of apples through the crockpot in 3 batches today for applesauce. 7 lbs processed & done, 7 lbs in, last 7 lbs is in!
9. Wishful thinking- 31 1/2 lbs of apples into apple butter today. (3 big batches, 3 half batches) 7 lbs processed and done (The large batch came out more like applesauce so I transferred it into my applesauce count!)
10. Post Maple Spiced Apple Butter blog.
11. Post Pumpkin Pie Spice Blog.
12. Inventory spices. I know I'm low on some & need to do a bulk run soon.

More Canning (That's why I call it Canstravaganza!) This will probably all happen Wednesday am as Canstravaganza continues....

13. Leek & Potato Soup
14. Persian Onion Soup
15. Start draft of onion soup blog post.
16. Skim purple cabbage sauerkraut. Can it if it's ready. Not quite ready yet!
17. Start green cabbage sauerkraut.

The Household

18. Run laundry.
19. Wash toddler's sheets. Remake her bed immediately.
20. Fold laundry.
21. Put away laundry.
22. Money stuff- check bank accounts. Gather bills. Pay bills.
23. Pick up farm share.

Yup. It's canning madness up in here. No need to build a fire. It will be roughly the same temperature as a tropical island shortly.


Butternut Squash Maple Herb Soup

Vermont is crazy about maple. I am crazy about both maple and Vermont. I love cooking with maple. At the roasters we are lucky to be the only purveyors of Brannagan's Maple Syrup. This wood-fired goodness is super rich and bottled in glass the same day it is made. Just looking at the bottle makes me itch to cook with it. After I roasted three whole butternut squash I decided to can some soup for winter. I made an Apple Squash Curry soup and then I decided to make another variety.

This one is also vegan but relies more on traditional squash flavorings like sage and thyme. I can't wait to pop one of these open in January when my house looks like this:

It may be hard to see but the bottom glow is our door, the top one is our skylight. And yes those snowbanks are halfway up the trees in front of our house.
You will need:

2 lbs roasted butternut squash (about 2 cups)
6 cups vegetarian stock (I use a Vegetarian "Chicken" Broth powder, 1 tsp per cup of water)
a few sage leaves crumbled up (or 1/2 TBS ground sage)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 TBS dried thyme
3 TBS maple syrup

This soup could not be easier to make. I promise. 

Puree the squash so that it's smooth. 

Put the squash into a stockpot. Add the maple syrup.

Crumble up some sage leaves and add them along with the thyme, salt, and pepper.
Add the 6 cups of broth. Stir the squash and broth together until mixed. Simmer for 20-30 minutes. 

Serve or can for later. 

If you're canning it make sure to use clean, hot sterilized jars. Fill the jars leaving about 3/4" of headspace. Wipe the rim and threads and top with clean sterilized NEW lids and a clean ring tightened (but don't be the Hulk). The soup will need to be pressure canned at 11 lbs of pressure (I do 15 since I have a weighted canner) for 55 minutes. Be sure that after they are done you leave them undisturbed for 24 hours on the counter so that you can double check that they sealed. After this point you can remove the rings and store them for up to a year. 

Apple Curry Squash Soup

Autumn is here in Vermont. Actually, technically it's practically over. Peak foliage has passed. Leaves are on the ground and snow has already hit the mountain tops. Which means it is prime soup weather. I love soup. A bowl of it with slices of homemade bread is one of my very favorite lunches.

I also love to can. There is something about hoarding mason jars that makes me really happy. As I follow USDA regulations I don't can anything with dairy so the two soups I made this week are all vegan and very healthy as I also didn't use any oil.

You will need:

2 lbs (about 2 cups) roasted butternut squash (Check out my post on easily roasting a squash whole.)
1 lb of apples, sectioned but not peeled (Macintosh or another squishy saucing apple works best)
1/2 cup sliced red onions
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 TBS curry powder
6 cups vegetarian stock (I use a Vegetarian "Chicken" Flavored powder, 1 tsp per cup)

Chop apples leaving the skins on. Slice onions and mince garlic. Put it all into a stockpot and saute using the cider vinegar. (If you wanted to you could substitute in a little oil here.) The apples will start getting a little squishy. This means you are ready to puree.

Puree the apples, onions, and garlic. Add 1 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp pepper to the puree and mix. 
Return the puree to the pan and heat.

Add the 6 cups of stock into the apple puree. 

Puree 2 cups of squash until smooth and add to the pan. Stir in well.  
Add curry into pan and mix in. 
Simmer the soup over low until slightly reduced for about 20 minutes. Taste and add salt if necessary (curry usually has salt in it so I always undersalt then taste it to avoid a salt-tastrophe!). 

If you're serving it right away then dish it out and enjoy with some bread!

If you're canning it make sure to use clean, hot sterilized jars. Fill the jars leaving about 3/4" of headspace. Wipe the rim and threads and top with clean sterilized NEW lids and a clean ring tightened (but not cranked on too tight). The soup will need to be pressure canned at 11 lbs of pressure (I do 15 since I have a weighted canner) for 55 minutes. Store for up to a year to enjoy on cold winter days.


Butternut Squash Casserole with Candied Bacon & Almonds

Butternut Squash Casserole with Candied Bacon & Almonds AKA Pie for Dinner

I love Thanksgiving. First, I like to cook so it's like my version of the Superbowl. Second, I love pumpkin and squash pies. This is a "pie" casserole. Basically this could be made as a breakfast, dinner, or dessert. I put bacon on it and serve it for dinner. The way I figure it there are two pounds of squash in here so it counts as healthy right? (Ok, I know it's not "healthy" but it is awesome.) This casserole style is really common in the South but I've cut out large amounts of butter and sugar that are normally used. You can make this vegetarian by eliminating the bacon topping.

You will need:

2 lbs (roughly 2 cups) of butternut squash, roasted (look at my post on roasting a whole squash)
3 eggs
2 TBS maple syrup
1/3 cup packed brown sugar plus an additional 4 TBS (2 for sprinkling the casserole, 2 for bacon)
4 TBS butter
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp ground clove
1 tsp kosher salt
4 slices bacon (optional)
1/3 cup almonds, chopped

Puree 2 cups of butternut squash.

Add 3 eggs and 2 TBS of maple syrup (I use Grade B) and blend.

Add 4 TBS (1/2 stick of butter) and puree. You could melt it first but my squash was still warm and I was lazy. 

Add 1/3 cup brown sugar and blend (not pictured). Add spices and blend.

Pour batter into a casserole dish that's been buttered or sprayed with cooking spray.

Sprinkle the top with 2 TBS of brown sugar. It helps to form a nice crackly crust and put in a 350 degree oven for 45-60 minutes. 45 minutes will yield a softer more pudding like texture. 60 minutes will be a little fluffier and drier. 

Cover a cookie sheet in tinfoil (trust me- the sugar carmelizes and you do not want to clean that pan!). Sprinkle the 4 slices of bacon with the remaining 2 TBS of brown sugar. 

Use the back of a spoon to squish the sugar onto the bacon. Put it in the oven with the casserole for 8-10 minutes keeping an eye on it so it doesn't burn.  
As soon as it comes out of the oven start peeling it off the tinfoil or it will stick  in a major way! Break it into little pieces.

Chop up your almonds. 

Pull your beautiful finished casserole out of the oven. It should have a nice crust on top. 

Dish out into bowls and top with bacon and almonds. Enjoy! 

How to Roast a Whole Butternut Squash

Ah, butternut squash. I appreciate it's flavor but it has a skin like a coat of armor. Have you ever tried to cut into a butternut squash? Let alone peel it? It's hard! There is a lot of swearing involved, sometimes blood, and then it never ends up on my menu. Is there a good way to peel butternut squash? The answer is yes! Peel it after you roast it whole, it will be the easiest butternut squash prep you've ever done. This discovery changed my life, I love to can and it opened up entire avenues to easy squash soups.

Excuse the absence of a before picture of the squash. I got carried away and forgot, then a discussion on Facebook over creative commons ensued and my friend Tiffany graciously posed some squash and texted me the picture. Sadly, I am not clever enough to figure out how to get the picture off the phone and onto this post so if you don't know what an uncooked butternut squash looks like visualize a large tan bowling pin looking object with a fat base. Or google it.

Turn your oven to 450. Wash the squash off really well. Plan to cook a couple at a time. There is no reason to run the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes for one squash. I did three that were about 2 1/2 pounds each.

I had already taken one out here, but I put them fat end to short end & over the cookie sheet.

Place a baking sheet on the lower rack under where the squash will go. Place the squash directly on the rack above. Do not poke them or halve them or anything. I promise they won't explode in your oven. They will naturally split to release steam and any juices will drip onto the tray. I just gave my rack a little wipe after and it was good as new.

Roast them for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Shut the oven off and crack open the oven door. Let them sit for another hour-ish. This is important. Otherwise you will be cursing me while you try to handle hot squash. Just trust me- don't bust open a steaming hot squash.

Get together one large bowl and two smaller ones. After the hour of rest take one out gently. They are roasted so you want to handle them gently to avoid unintentional breakage. If you cannot comfortably pick up the squash with your hands, it didn't cool off enough. Give it a few more minutes. Picture time!

Stand up the squash in a bowl.

The skin will flake off super easily. I just threw it in our compost bin. The top stem part will also break right off.

After you've peeled it, whack the whole neck part off down to the fat base. There are no seeds in this part.

Gather your cooked squash in a large mixing bowl.

Now you're down to the seed part. They'll be really easy to spot because they'll be surrounded in fluorescent orange stringy matter. Scoop it all out carefully. 

Put that in a different bowl. You can rinse these in a strainer later and roast the seeds if you wish. Because they have already  been cooked they just need a quick broil for crunch.

Now just peel of the rest of the skin from the bottom part and put the flesh in the mixing bowl. Repeat with the rest of your squash. You lose the least amount of water weight from the squash this way. The 3 squash I roasted yielded about 7 1/2 pounds of cooked squash. You can mash it with a spoon or puree it and store it for later use in the fridge.

Feeling motivated? Check out my other squash recipes that I made out of this puree for Apple Curry Squash Soup, Squash Maple Herb Soup or Butternut Squash Casserole with Candied Bacon and Almonds (this one is just an excuse to eat pumpkin pie-ish goodness for dinner).