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Squatch

Earlier in the week I promised you Michael’s squash recipe — the very recipe that had everyone at Thanksgiving dinner oohing and ahhing simultaneously for a solid minute. I don’t hold out, kids. This recipe is super easy and will be a hit at all your holiday potlucks. You can thank me later.

Mike’s Squatch

What you’ll need:
Butternut squash
assorted dried berries
assorted nuts
maple syrup (the real stuff)
lots of butter
graham crackers

***

You want to start with a nice big butternut squash. Like, maybe the size of a small chihuahua. Skin it, then cube it. (Careful not to cut your fingers off. Cutting squash is hard.)

skin and cube

Steam the cubed squash for a while. We didn’t time it, we just checked it every few minutes and when it was soft enough, we took it off the steam.

steaming squash

You’ll know it’s done because the color will deepen and it will be soft enough to stick a fork through. Transfer the cubes to a mixing bowl and add a quarter cup or so of pure maple syrup. Toss it all together and then start mashing. Or, if you prefer, squashing.*

*har har

steamed cubed squash

Take a break from all that squashing to sort and chop your nuts and berries.

nuts and berries

You could really use any dried berries or nuts you feel like. We’re Costco junkies so we buy the Kirkland  Wholesome Fruit & Nuts mix. It’s got dried cherries, cranberries, walnuts, pistachios, and almonds. We had some leftover figs and currants which Mike chopped up and threw in as well. But I’m getting ahead of myself! Keep your nuts and berries separate. The nuts go into the crust and the berries go into the squash. So chop up your berries, add them to the squash and mash them all together.

mash it all together

When it’s thoroughly mixed together, squash it all down into a baking dish or lasagna pan.

mash it pretty

Put your chopped nuts into a little mixing bowl with a stack of crushed graham crackers and cut in at least half a stick of butter.

his hands while he cooks

You’re basically making a simplified version of that crumbly awesome crust that goes on the top of some apple pies. Nuts and graham crackers smashed together with a stick of butter. Makes my mouth melt just thinking about it.

ready for the oven

Spread the crust over the top of the squash and you are done. It needs ten to fifteen minutes in the oven at 375*. You’ll know it’s ready to eat when the top is browned and gorgeous.browned and gorgeous

We’re totally making this again for Christmas.

What’s a recipe you love to make this time of year? I shared with you, now it’s your turn.

P.S. There’s still time for you to enter to win an awesome hand-made Mama Bear hat from Dopey LaRue!

Trucha Frita

1

When we got home from Bolivia and my father asked me what the best part of the trip was, I answered, without hesitation, “Breakfast at the floating island trout restaurant.” That statement holds true today. My heart heard angels sing that morning, I swear to you.

Now where were we? That’s right, day six of our travels, day four in Bolivia, day three of our first trek, about two hours into the day. Approximately eighteen hours since our last honest meal, not counting the half-cup of cold, practically raw quinoa we had shared the evening before. As the morning waned, the road we hiked became more traveled, not by people on foot like us, but by vehicles. Which would have been no big deal except that it was a dirt road and whenever a truck went past it kicked up a cloud of dirt so huge and thick we were completely enveloped for the next minute or so. We quickly learned to anticipate this, cover our nose and mouths with the neck of our fleece, and hold our breath. Because otherwise – ick. And even still – ICK. I’ve never inhaled so much flying dirt in my life. Add to this our hunger and the morning soon went from a lovely stroll through an idyllic village to a horrible trek through miserable misery.

In my memory we hiked for hours and hours like this, but it couldn’t have been that long. We started hiking around six-thirty and we found the magical floating island around nine-thirty, so maybe it was only two hours of miserably misery?* We hiked and hiked, shielding our faces from the dirt blown up by passing trucks, and the longer I hiked the hungrier I got. Soon the hunger pangs were so bad I was doubled over, hardly able to walk.

(*ED: I just checked with Mike and he says we left camp at 6:00 a.m. and arrived at the restaurant at 10:30 a.m., so it had been a four-and-a-half hour hike by the time we reached the floating island. No wonder it felt like hours of misery.)

I realize that sounds incredibly weak and dramatic, but I’m a delicate flower when it comes to hunger. If I bothered to see a doctor about it (which I would if I had health insurance, but I don’t) I’m sure I’d be diagnosed as hypoglycemic.  When my blood sugar drops I get very, very sick. I can’t think straight, I shake, my vision wavers, and I suffer awful stomach pains. I usually carry glucose tablets wherever I go, but of course I didn’t bring any to Bolivia because I was saving weight! But the few ounces of weight saved didn’t matter when I finally collapsed on the side of the road next to a cow, shaking, my head between my knees, tears making tiny clean spots on the toes of my dusty boots.

Just take one more step, I told myself. One more step. One more step.

I don’t remember how we finally found the restaurant, or why we decided to check it out, but suddenly, there it was.

2

A mirage. It must be. We were so hungry we were hallucinating. Mike dropped his pack and told us to stay put, watch his stuff, he was going to investigate. There were some locals doing, I don’t know, local stuff I guess, and I don’t know what was said but there was much pointing and nodding and when Mike came back he said that in fact what we were seeing was real, a real restaurant, and it was open. It didn’t look open, but we figured it was worth a fifteen minute walk out of our way. Our next chance for food was probably Copacabana and that was easily three more hours of hiking, so off we went.

3

We had to hike down and around and up and back down and across. It took us twenty minutes but the closer we got, the more beautiful the little floating island became. Mike rushed ahead to make sure we really could settle down and eat there. The man he spoke to told him that we probably wouldn’t be happy eating breakfast there, as they only served trout. What he didn’t realize is that we would have gladly eaten spider guts at that point.

“He’s catching the fish now!” Mike called to us. “Hurry up!”

6

Have you ever seen so many fish in one place in your whole life?

9

10

He caught the fish right in front of us, three beautiful, silvery, jumping fish.

11

And then he gutted them, right there, while they were still alive and flipping their tails in his hands. I wanted to feel terrible about it, for their suffering and pain, but instead I said a prayer of thanks for the meal I was about to eat, and for the sacrifice of the little fish lives. I know that there are people in the world who go weeks without food and it was less than a day for me, but by God I needed something in my belly or I was going to kill someone a lot bigger than a fish.

As soon as the fish were cleaned and ready, he handed them over to his wife who fried them up. While she cooked, we amused ourselves by wandering around and taking pictures. My heart had completely lifted at the prospect of a good meal and for the first time in all the six days we’d been traveling, I felt like I was on vacation.

4

5

13

14

12

And there you have it, amigos. The best meal/best moment/best EVERYTHING of our entire three weeks in Bolivia.

Ok, maybe not the best EVERYTHING, but certainly one of the highlights.

L.A. to Mexico City to Tapachula…

…to Lima to Santa Cruz to La Paz

La Paz = Love

Cementario del Distrito

Copacabana

Isla del Sol en las Fotografias

Trekking Isla del Sol

Trekking Isla del Sol, One Step at a Time

Evening in Yampupata

The Village Awakens

A Serious Sandwich

a serious sandwich

Whole wheat break layered with mayo, pepperjack, sliced tomatoes, red onion, avacado, fresh ground pepper and kosher salt. Served open-face.

Try it. You can thank me later.

Sailboat Strawberry Pie

Yesterday I tried to post this recipe but instead I got carried away talking all about our wonderful anniversary/family visit. And as much as I loved pouring over family photos that week, I equally loved spending one-on-one time visiting with my mother-in-law. I realize that the cliche is a mother-in-law who meddles and sticks her nose in and disapproves of everything, but my mother-in-law is anything but that. She’s absolutely lovely. She reminds me a lot of my Aunt Sue – my mother’s beloved Aunty who passed away when I was 16. I spent my childhood at Aunt Sue’s heels while she baked cakes and served fairy tea in miniature china teacups. I spent hours with my head resting on her ample bosom, while she told stories about her childhood home, our nation’s capital, the illustrious Washington D.C.  She’s been gone for years, but I see her in my mother-in-law. The way Mom pads around the kitchen in red knit ballet slippers, telling stories about her childhood in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where her mother lived her entire life in a two-bedroom house with no kitchen sink. We spent our mornings immersed in photo albums, our afternoons cooking, and every evening I curled up at her feet like a cat and asked for more stories. More!

When Michael’s parents were first married, they owned a beautiful sailboat that they’d take out for weeks at a time. Michael cut his teeth sailing and I have seen the photos to prove it. (omgsoadorable.)  The following is a recipe for the strawberry pie Michael’s mother used to make on the boat whenever they went out to sea. It’s unbelievably easy and it’s probably one of the best strawberry pies I’ve ever eaten.

Sailboat Strawberry Pie

Oven: This will depend on the type of crust you use
Prep: 30 min.
Bake: Nada
What You’ll Need:
frozen/refrigerated pie crust
fresh strawberries
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
whipping cream
sugar
vanilla extract

We started with a Marie Callender’s frozen pie crust. I was skeptical because I’ve always insisted on baking my own pie crusts from scratch, but this pie crust was so delicious – flaky, tender, flavorful – I don’t know if I’ll ever go to the trouble of making a crust from scratch again. We followed the instructions on the box, which were something along the lines of “take the crust out of the box, prick it all over with a fork, bake it for 15 minutes, voila!”

While the crust was in the oven, we washed the strawberries, trimmed their tops off, and set them out to dry. It’s important that the strawberries are completely dry before you put them in the pie.

When the crust had baked and cooled, you sift 1 cup of powdered sugar evenly into the pie crust.

When the strawberries are completely dry, you arrange them in the powdered sugar dusted pie crust.

strawberries

We were only about half-done filling the crust with strawberries at this point…

Next, sift 1 more cup of powdered sugar over the strawberries, covering evenly and completely.

If you want to make your own whipped cream, now is the time. Add a teaspoon of vanilla extract to your whipping cream and whip on high while slowly adding sugar to taste. We forgot to buy whipping cream, but Mom had Cool Whip on hand and that worked perfectly.

Cover your pie with whipped cream (or Cool Whip) like so:

whipping cream

You want to completely cover the pie with whipped cream, much the way you would cover a meringue-topped pie with meringue – sealed all the way to the edges. Put the pie in the fridge for two or three hours to chill before serving. Voila! You’re done! Easy peasy and completely delicious.

fini

Now I wish I’d taken a photo of the pie once it was cut and plated because in addition to being delicious, it was also gorgeous. But you’re just going to have to take my word for it. Now onward! Make pies!

Where Does Quinoa Come From?

I love Quinoa. My mother introduced me to it, but it was GGC who taught me that quinoa is something you can eat a million ways and seventy times a week.

Ok, not that much. Everything in moderation.

My favorite way to eat quinoa is as breakfast (with hot milk, cinnamon, a sprinkle of brown sugar) or instead of pasta. It cooks up super fast, has tons of protein, tastes good, and is way better for you than pasta.

First you clean it. I rinse it the same way I rinse a bunch of grapes, only instead of a regular colander, I use a tiny mesh colander.

rinsed

Then I put it in a little pot with maybe a quarter inch of water on top of it. Like so:

just add water

You want to let it come to a nice boil over medium heat. When it boils, turn the heat way down, cover it, and let it simmer for ten to fifteen minutes. The water will soak into the seeds until they open and become almost transparent. They are surprisingly beautiful, strange looking little grains.

needs a fluffer

You just can’t tell in this picture.

We like to dish it out, then smother it in homemade pasta sauce and Asiago cheese. We eat it out on the balcony and watch the sun set. And when I try to take a photo of Mike with his wonderful quinoa dinner he says, “Seriously? I’m chewing.”

he is chewing

White Girl Stir Fry

Here is my recipe for White Girl Stir Fry.  It has nothing to do with actual stir-fry, except that it’s delicious. It’s also fast, easy, and healthy.

What You’ll Need:
Tofu
Vegetables
Chopped Garlic
Olive Oil
Ponzu sauce

First, heat some oil in a nice big pan. Next, sautee your chopped garlic. I had some nice scallions, so I chopped those up and threw them in too.

scallions

The vegetable and tofu goes in next. I used brocoli, but you could use carrots, mushrooms, beans, cauliflower, even brussel sprouts would be rad. Throw ’em in there, swoosh everything around in the olive oil, then put a lid on it. You want it to steam a little bit before you add the next ingredient.

broccoli

And now…

ponzu

PONZU! Apply your PONZU! liberally. The more PONZU! the more delicious.

Finally, when your tofu and vegetable is softened to your liking, fold in about two or three handfulls of spinach. (Or any good wilting green you like.)

spinach

Last but not least, take a photo of your dinner and post it on the Internet.

squircle

It’s not pretty, but it is a squircle!

Love = Him

Homemade Sushi

Last Friday he made us sushi for dinner. As in made. With his hands. And all fresh ingredients. And it was awesome.

This Saturday we celebrate our five-year wedding anniversary. Five years! (I have to find something made of wood to give him.)

I love you, Michael. You’re all of my everything.

It’s easy! Everyone likes it!

spaghetti sauce

You guys. I made spaghetti sauce. From scratch.

I realize that most of you probably cook all the time and the idea of getting excited over some spaghetti sauce is truly laughable, but fore me, me who up until very recently had a panic attack whenever I was asked to cook something, me who didn’t know how to hard boil an egg, me who enjoys the taste of burned food because until recently, everything I cooked for myself was charred to a blackened crisp, for me this spaghetti sauce was a very big deal.

I didn’t even use a recipe. I just threw stuff in a pot and simmered it all together. Some of the stuff I sauteed first and some of the stuff I browned first, but I just threw it all together and you guys, it was so delicious and I had so much fun doing it. So. Much. Fun. I’d tell you exactly how I did it, but I’m probably the only person in the world who has never made spaghetti sauce before, so I won’t. Instead I’ll show you a photo of how it looked when I ate it with spaghetti squash and asiago cheese.

dinner

You know you want some.

Min’s Irish Soda Bread

For as long as I can remember, my mother has cooked her famed Corned Beef and Cabbage for each and every Saint Patrick’s Day. Except for Christmas, I never felt further from home in New York than on St. Paddy’s Day, 3,000 miles away from my family and our delicious traditional meal.

So you can imagine how excited I am for tonight’s Family Dinner! That’s right! In honor of Saint Patrick and Frost Family Tradition, Mama Frost is making her wonderful Corned Beef and Cabbage and I baked two loaves of Irish Soda Bread to go along with it. Mmmmmmm…. I love me some Irish Soda Bread! My mom gave me this recipe, and I think she got it from her father, who probably got it from his mother, Min. But I’m just guessing.

Grandma Min’s Irish Soda Bread

Oven: 325*
Prep: 10 min.
Bake: 65-70 min.
What you’ll need:
A 9×5 loaf pan (I use a 9″ cake pan and it works fine.)
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp baking powder
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 egg lightly beaten
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup melted butter
raisins

P.S. As I typed that list out, I realized that I totally did not add the baking soda to my Irish Soda Bread. What happens when you skip the baking soda in a recipe? (We’ll find out at dinner tonight.)

Preheat your oven to 325* and grease your loaf pan.

Combine flour, baking powder, BAKING SODA, sugar, and salt.

Blend egg and buttermilk, then add all at once to flour mixture.

add buttermilk and egg

Mix buttermilk and egg mixture into flour mixture until just moist.

mix in until just moist

Stir in the melted butter…

add butter

Then… defile the Irish and add RAISINS to the mix! Yes, that’s right. Traditional Irish Soda Bread does not contain raisins, at least not according to the Internets. However, my family’s traditional recipe does include raisins, and it’s delicious that way, so do as the Frosts do and add raisins! Yum! (Also, don’t really defile the Irish. We love and adore the Irish. In fact, the Frosts are Irish. So maybe the Internets are wrong about what makes Soda Bread authentic.)

add raisins

I have no idea how many raisins you should add. Just throw in a bunch until you think it looks right. And be sure not to forget the baking soda. It is, after all, Irish Soda Bread.

Pour your batter (it should be thick and gooey, like the batter for scones) into your greased loaf pan. I like to use a rubber spatula to scrape the mixing bowl clean. Put it in a 325* oven for 65 to 70 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

irish soda bread

Well, it looks fantastic. Too bad this blog doesn’t have smell-o-reading because it smells fffffaaaaannnntaaaasssstic! Now you’re going to let it cool on a wire rack for thirty minutes to an hour.  For best flavor, wrap it in a clean dishcloth and let it sit over night before serving. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

Now for your daily sleeping wiener:

wiener dreams

(Tomorrow I’ll tell you what the fam thought of my soda-less soda bread. Seriously? How could I forget the baking soda?)

***It was awesome, by the way. Delish. Everybody had multiple helpings, and one of my brothers even skipped dessert so he could justify eating more of the sodaless soda bread. But really? The true star of the show was my mother’s Corned Beef and Cabbage which, Holy Mother of Goldfish, was so incredible, so much more incredible than I even remembered, it was completely worth moving 3,000 miles across the country for.

Brown Bananas Part 2

Since yesterday’s post on brown bananas was so popular, I thought I’d share one more brown banana trick. Also because I had one last brown banana and I hadn’t yet read Kim’s comment on freezing them. Great idea, by the way. Anyhow, here you are, another post about bananas. Bananas!

Recipe for Fried Bananas

What you’ll need:
A brown banana
Butter
Cinnamon and sugar to taste

First you need to melt a lot of butter in a pan. Don’t be stingy!

butter

You don’t have to melt your butter in the shape of a little dancing man like I did, but if you do, your fried banana will taste that much better. No pressure.

Peel your banana and slice it in half lengthwise. Lay it in the pan to fry.

sizzling

Let it sizzle for a minute or so, then begin pushing it around the pan with a spatula. So it will soak up more butter. Also, maybe add a little bit more butter, because butter is delicious. Flip the banana slices frequently, so that both sides will get nice and golden. As the banana fries it will get softer, and it might break up into smaller pieces. That is a-ok.

getting golden

Mmmmm. Nice golden fried bananas. Once they seem to be very golden and hot and gooey, plate them and sprinkle them with cinnamon and sugar. Eat ’em up and marvel at all the wonderful things you can do with over-ripe brown bananas.

sweet fried bananas

I fried up these babies last weekend, but all this talk about butter and sugar and gooey banana goodness is making me hungry! Excuse me while I go fry up anther two or twelve bananas.

Bananas!