Monthly Archives: November 2014

Squash with Raisins and Thyme

DSC_5186Every winter when the colder weather moves in I become anti-social.  It’s one of those things I know will happen every year– like when you first notice the guys selling Christmas trees on the corner the weekend after Thanksgiving­– and yet I always seem to think, “I will manage better this year.”  I have been feeling so good for so long, that my reclusive behavior has crept up albeit very slowly over the last month.  It really became apparent when my husband was away on a business trip last month.  Usually when he goes away for several weeks at a time, I have a strategy in place to ward off the loneliness.  I try and fill my social calendar and make a long list of things to do to keep myself occupied.  Although I braced myself with my usual approach before his most recent trip, rather than going to a book reading or a movie, I found myself coming home after work most nights just to hunker down in front of the television to watch Jeopardy and Gilmore Girls.  Endless episodes.  But the strange thing was:  I didn’t feel lonely.  Or sad.  I was actually in pretty good spirits.  However, that was over a month ago.  Eventually, my unsociable behavior catches up with me, and coupled with the cold weather and shorter days, it usually ignites the winter blues at the very least.  Sometimes it can lead to a full-on depressive episode.

I am determined to manage my depression this winter.  That is, after all, the best anyone with this illness can do.  It’s like the required radios in North Korean homes:  they can never be turned completely off, only turned down, so as to ensure that the propaganda is heard.  I can’t get rid of my depression, but I can manage it by doing what I know works for me.  I have to force myself out of the apartment at least a few nights during the week, as well as on the weekends.  My brain needs external stimulation to counter the incessant internal messages.  And it becomes really hard to do in the winter when all I want to do after work is go home, put on my pajamas, and curl up on the couch.  The impulse is so strong– it almost feels like a biological instinct.
DSC_5188Maybe it just boils down to finding something every day to ensure a moment of quiet contentment.  My husband and I discovered a great coffee shop that opened in our neighborhood recently.  We’ve started going for afternoon coffee every Sunday to make certain that we get out of the apartment and check in with each other before the day is over.  Today we decided to also purchase our first Christmas tree.  Carrying it home, I had a big, stupid grin on my face.  Of course, I suggested we put on Christmas music while decorating the tree.  Seeing our little, lopsided tree all lit up made me very happy.

This is one of the easiest things you could possibly make.  And dare I say one of the most delicious.  I pack it up for my weekday lunches, but it could also be a vegetable side if you feel the need to have something heartier during the day.  The original recipe called for dates, but I’m not a huge date fan.  You could also substitute currants, golden raisins, or most likely any other dried fruit you are fond of.
DSC_5193Squash with Raisins and Thyme
Adapted from Bon Appétit

3 small acorn squash, scrubbed, cut into 1/2″ wedges
1/2 bunch thyme
4 garlic gloves, crushed
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup raisins
Flaky sea salt

1.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
2.  Toss squash, thyme, garlic, olive oil, and butter in a large baking dish; season with sea salt and pepper.
3.  Roast, tossing occasionally, until just tender, 40-45 minutes.  Add raisins;  toss to coat.
4.  Roast until squash are very tender and raisins plump up a bit, 12-15 minutes.
5.  Arrange squash, raisins, garlic, and thyme on a platter, spoon any oil in dish over squash, and sprinkle with flaky sea salt.

Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake with Buttermilk Icing

DSC_5199I went home last weekend to surprise my sister for her 40th birthday.  I forgot how fun it is to surprise people.  The night before her birthday, on Halloween, I showed up at her door wearing a mask and said, “Trick or Treat!”  She immediately started jumping up and down and screamed something like, “No you did NOT!”  I don’t really know what that means, but it was fun to see her surprised.
DSC_5171I don’t make it back to Minnesota that often anymore, but when I do it’s usually a mad scramble of trying to fit in time with my divorced parents, my sister, and both of my grandmothers, among other people.   I wanted this trip to be different.  I was going back essentially to celebrate my sister, so everyone else was going to be an “If I have time” item on my list.  The morning of my sister’s birthday, my dad asked if he could take my sister and I to a little river town in Wisconsin for breakfast.  I realized after we got into the car that we had not spent time together just the three of us in many years.  I know I have a horrible memory, but I want to say that it’s been since maybe high school?   It was such a nice time, and so unexpected, that I found myself trying to really soak it all in.  After breakfast, we decided to visit the top of a nearby bluff that has beautiful scenery.  On the way there, I was overcome with a strong feeling of tranquility.  It made me so happy to know that the three of us can spend time together and truly enjoy each other’s company.  Like most families, we have had our share of rough patches.  I really wanted to turn to them and say, “I love you guys”, the way I would to a close girlfriend but I was afraid it would make things awkward.   So I didn’t.  I let the moment pass.  I hope the next time I am overcome with emotion for them I have the courage to tell them how I feel.
DSC_5204I have been meaning to buy a bundt pan for over a year.  I finally bought one a month ago, and was so excited about it that I had the crazy idea I was going to make a different type of bundt cake every week.  Well, I’ve made one so far.  And of course it was pumpkin.  There’s really no other option when the beginning of fall is in the air and the weather starts to change.  What am I going to make­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­– a zucchini cake??  PLEASE.  I increased the amount of spices from the original recipe, and also substituted a bit of brown sugar for the granulated sugar.  The only thing this recipe needs is chocolate chips.  Then it would be perfect.

DSC_5208Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake with Buttermilk Icing
Adapted from Gourmet

Cake
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened, plus additional for greasing bundt pan
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour plus additional for dusting pan
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin (from a 15 oz. can)
3/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
3 large eggs

Icing
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons well-shaken buttermilk
1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar

Special equipment:  a 10-inch nonstick bundt pan

1.  Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter bundt pan generously, then dust with flour, knocking out excess.
2.  Whisk together flour (2 1/4 cups), baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and salt in a bowl.
3.  Whisk together pumpkin, 3/4 cup buttermilk, and vanilla in another bowl.
4.  Beat butter (1 1/2 sticks), brown sugar and granulated sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes, then add eggs and beat 1 minute.
5.  Reduce speed to low and add flour and pumpkin mixtures alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture and mixing until batter is just smooth.
6.  Spoon batter into pan, smoothing top, then bake until a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes.
7.  Cool cake in pan on a rack 15 minutes, then invert rack over cake and re-invert cake onto rack.  Cool 10 minutes more.
8.  While cake is cooling, whisk together buttermilk and confectioners sugar until smooth.  Drizzle icing over warm cake, then cool cake completely.  Icing will harden slightly.