Monday, April 8, 2013

It just feels good to cook- especially when it's from the heart ❤

Baby: lemon, apple, banana, cucumber, rutabaga, carrot and butternut squash.....

The above are just a few of the veggie/fruit inspirations we have been using to cook with at home. Our creative dinners have been inspired by our growing baby girl in her warm ever becoming smaller home inside the womb. It's been fun each week to imagine how big she is compared to each of these items since as chef parents to be we have a pretty great understanding of what that size is.

Each week I get an e-mail from that updates us on where we are at in the pregnancy process. It tells us things like the weight and possible length. We find out how our baby girl is developing her sense of hearing and sight, the formation of her lungs and nervous system and we receive fairly accurate reports of what I may be experiencing too! Lately I have to admit it seems like we are already running out of room in my short torso. The kicks are getting stronger and some of her movements have literally took my breathe away.

We are at week 29 as of April 5th.

I stopped at Hansens grocery store in Suttons Bay specifically to buy a butternut squash this weekend but that store usually keeps me captive for more than my intended get in and get out grocery shopping plan. I make a couple circles through the produce section and checked for any new products in the specialty cheese section. I used to spend a lot of time in the wine department- they have a very nicely organized section in case my wine aficionado friends didn't know already- but I don't spend much time there recently for obvious reasons.

I grabbed a red onion and celery on my first pass along with the squash. The second time around it was goat cheese, green onion, and eggs. All along thinking about how I could incorporate these items into my butternut squash creation. What do I already have at home that needs to be used? Was that bacon I saw in the freezer? I could make a soup, a casserole, waffles... Oh yeah I don't have a waffle maker.... Hmmmmm.

By the time I passed the deli for a third time I couldn't resist stopping for one of those gigantic dill pickles and a small container of potato salad too. Saaallttt....... Total pregnant woman stereotype that I wasn't about to deny at this point.

My small splurge confession- the Harboro gummy bears- you know the ones that have been around forever- I squished them in the package to make sure they were fresh and not stale and hard. Those would do when my sweet tooth arrived later on. I smile as I am writing this now because that was supposed to be a secret but I'm tattling about For a reason i don't have. I definitely made sure when the bag boy was putting my order into the brown paper bag that those went on top just in case I wanted a few to enjoy on the way home.

I turned on my oven to 350 degrees right away when I got home with the idea that I would roast the butternut squash and decide from there what to do with it. 2 hours later I finally got to chopping up the squash and added it to the perfectly warmed up appliance. I got a little sidetracked cleaning as any normal pregnant woman who is nesting will do.

When the roasted squash had done its job smelling up the kitchen with its deliciously sweet and earthy aromas i was still formulating my plan as i scooped the flesh away from the skin. I then set to work on my dinner tribute to our "baby butternut squash girl". I would just figure it out as I went along- perfectly normal way of doing things in the kitchen for me.

I have to admit I am pretty happy with the outcome for our dinner that evening. Somewhat simple yet vibrant flavor combinations and distinct textures that balanced each other out nicely too.

I was asked if I would share my recipe by my dear friend Sahra in which I replied "I have to remember what I did. Cooking without a recipe is a reoccurring instance to my style of cooking that I am comfortable with. I often think I should be better about keeping track with what I am doing so I can do it again if I want to or share it easily with friends who ask but that rarely happens.

I am grateful this time that I was asked though since I do plan to make something similar to this again. Maybe for our little girl when she is our growing toddler. I know her older brother and sister love food like this already so hopefully she has similar taste buds for trying new foods too!

BUTTERNUT SQUASH FRITTERS WITH CRUNCHY CELERY SALSA- stacked with crispy bacon and crumbled goat cheese.

Butternut squash- chopped into large pieces roasted at 350 until al dente- not too soft.
Scoop out the squash flesh after cooled into a bowl- it's okay if it is in chunks.

While squash roasts in the oven:

Prepare and put into a bowl:
-1/4 cup chopped red peppers
-1-2 stalks green onion chopped
-1/4 cup of chopped red onion sautéed til translucent in 1 tbsp oil- it will seem like a lot of oil but this is part of what will make the fritters flavor and crisp.
-2 cloves of garlic minced and added to the onion half way during the sautéing process

Bake your bacon strips in the oven at 400 degrees until crisp.

Make the salsa:
Slice up on the bias thinly two celery stalks, slice a handful of cherry tomatoes and One tablespoon of minced raw red onion. Add salt and pepper, about two tsp white wine vinegar or verjus if you have it, 1 tsp of maple syrup and 1 tsp of oil or warm bacon fat depending on what you like.

Note: I saved the bacon fat for cooking the fritters later. I actually experimented cooking two with bacon fat and two with butter. The bacon fat ones kept a prettier orange squashy color while the butteriness got browner on the outside.

Combine the above with the semi cooled squash with a fork gently

-Add one egg
-1/2 cup flour more or less just so the batter is not too wet
-Salt and pepper to taste
-You could add other herbs and spices depending on what you have available- i kept this one simple.

Heat up your sauté pan with butter or bacon fat and in 1/4 cup portions spoon the squash batter into the pan and gently push it down until about 1/4 inch thick and fritter looking- or like a pancake. Cook on both sides until golden brown.

Remove the fritter from the pan and put onto a sheet tray lined with parchment and place into a 300 degree oven to keep warm and crisp as you cook the rest of the fritters.

Right before you plate up your creation warm your plates up in the oven for a few moments. Stack two fritters with bacon strips in the middle and a little goat cheese. Place the celery salsa on top and more crumbled goat cheese as desired. Enjoy!!