Monday, June 29, 2009

My love of Butternut Squash

I think my love of butternut squash comes from my love of anything pumpkin and sweet potato. (once fall comes around and pumpkins start to show up at the Farmer's Market I'll be in total bliss) Cooked butternut squash tastes much like those other two. Not too many people I know cook butternut squash and I'm not sure why. It's not hard to do. And there are many new recipes besides the standard roasted bits or soup. Take a look at the 2 dishes that I've made over the past couple of days. Both came from one rather large (almost 2 lbs.) whole squash.

First Up: Butternut Squash Gratin (courtesy of Cooking Light)

5 cups (3/4-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (about 2


1 (1 1/2-ounce) slice white bread

4 teaspoons olive oil, divided

2 cups thinly sliced onion

1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Cooking spray

1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled blue cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400°.

2. Steam butternut squash, covered, 10 minutes or until tender.

3. Place bread in a food processor, and pulse 12 times or until coarse crumbs measure 1/2

cup. Transfer to a small bowl; add 2 teaspoons oil, and toss with a fork to combine.

4. Heat remaining 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sliced

onion to pan; saute 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Transfer the onion mixture

to a large bowl. Add butternut squash, chopped sage, salt, and black pepper to bowl, and toss

gently to combine. Spoon squash mixture into an 11 x 7–inch baking dish coated with cooking

spray. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes. Sprinkle crumbled blue cheese evenly over squash

mixture, and sprinkle evenly with breadcrumb mixture. Bake an additional 10 minutes or until

the cheese is melted and crumbs are golden brown.

Yield: 6 servings (serving size: about 1 cup)

CALORIES 186 (31% from fat); FAT 6.4g (sat 2.4g,mono 2.9g,poly 0.5g); IRON 1.7mg;


5.1g; FIBER 4.8g

Cooking Light, DECEMBER 2008

Oh man...this has sage (another one of my favorite ingredients that you don't see a lot) and blue cheese. Heaven!

All golden and toasty.

And spooned out on my plate.

Second Dish: Pest Pizza with Butternut Squash (again from Cooking Light)

6 (1/4-inch-thick) slices peeled butternut squash or

pumpkin (about 1/2 pound)

2 teaspoons sugar

3/4 teaspoon olive oil

Cooking spray

1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded fontina or Gouda cheese

Pizza Dough

1 (14.5-ounce) can finely chopped tomatoes, drained

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 cup Classic Pesto

1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Romano or Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400°.

Combine first 3 ingredients in a medium bowl. Place squash mixture on a baking sheet coated

with cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until squash is tender.

Increase oven temperature to 450°.

Sprinkle fontina over dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border; top with squash mixture, tomatoes,

and oregano. Drop Classic Pesto by level teaspoons onto mixture; sprinkle with Romano. Bake

at 450° for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

Totals include PIzza Dough

Yield: 6 servings (serving size: 1 slice)

CALORIES 310 (30% from fat); FAT 10.4g (sat 4.5g,mono 4.1g,poly 1.1g); IRON 3mg;


12.4g; FIBER 2.8g

Cooking Light, SEPTEMBER 2002

Okay folks, it doesn't get much easier than this. I sliced the squash pieces from the same squash that I got my cubes from. I opted for store bought pesto (hey, sometimes I'm lazy) and store bought pizza dough.

Okay..the smell is amazing when it comes out of the oven.

Then when you take a bite: the tomatoes and squash are sweet while the pesto and cheese are salty. Great combination of flavors!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Alice in Wonderland

I love just about any movie that Tim Burton has done. And I don't think Alice in Wonderland is going to disappoint! Remember the old live action one they did the 80's. I think Burton's will be like that but on crack. Check out the Times Online for a sneak peak at a few pictures.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Dinner Tonight 6/26/09

Tonight's dinner was a new twist on an old favorite...
Spinach Pie Pizza

David only cooks a few things and one of them is Spinach Pies. Tonight he didn't feel like making individual pies, so we opted for a pizza. It was quite good. I toasted some pine nuts to go in with the spinach. And when the pizza came out I topped it with Feta cheese. Tasty! And since it was supposed to have been Spinach Pies, I had already made Tzatziki sauce. We put that on the pizza anyways! Oh so good.

We don't really have a written recipe for the pie filling. But it takes 2 thawed boxes of chopped spinach. Some chopped onion. Allspice, Lebanese Sumac, Garlic Powder, Salt and Lemon Juice. He sautés that all up until the onions are slightly cooked. Then normally he puts them into pastry pies.

But tonight...Ta Da!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Oh J Crew..why do you torture me??

J Crew is good...

I'm not big into buying lots of handbags. I usually just have one black and one brown, plus a nice-ish one for if I ever need it. Then I fell in love with my giraffe purse. I've worn that everyday since I bought it (except on vacation). Then I saw pics of the new Campo Bag by J Crew. *sigh* I love this bag! It's a great color (burnt sienna) and size. But the thing is $298! Sheesh! Guess it's better than the $795 camisole that I thought I liked (cuz I don't like it for that much!).

Here's a size comparison for the bag.

Dinner Tonight 6/24/09

Moroccan Chicken with Quinoa Pilaf
I love this Moroccan Chicken dish. I make it all the time. It's super easy with just chicken, onions, garlic, dried apricots, canned chickpeas and spices. It does take an hour to cook so that the chicken gets really tender but it's so worth the extra time. The recipe is from a Cooking Light magazine which I have scanned. If you'd like it, just email me.

Usually I make couscous with this dish but I thought I'd try Ellie Krieger's recipe (from the Food Network) for Quinoa pilaf. You can click here to learn about the health benefits of Quinoa.

And here's the recipe for the pilaf:


2 cups low-sodium chicken broth


1 cup quinoa, rinsed

1/4 cup pine nuts

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 large onion, chopped

1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves

Salt and pepper

Put the broth and quinoa in a medium sized saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 to 20

minutes, until liquid is absorbed and grain is tender.

Meanwhile, toast the nuts in a large dry skillet over medium-high heat until golden brown and fragrant, about 2 minutes, stirring

frequently. Remove nuts from pan and set aside. Heat the oil in the same skillet over a medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook

stirring occasionally, until the onions soften and begin to brown, about 6 minutes.

When the quinoa is done, fluff with a fork and transfer to a large serving bowl. Stir in the pine nuts, onions, and parsley. Season with

salt and pepper and serve.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Dinner Tonight 6/23/09

Beef Empanada Potpie
David requested dinners that have leftovers. What better recipe than Potpie? But there's a twist, how about Empanada Potpie? Take a beef potpie and give it a Spanish twist. It's quite tasty. I can't find the garlic breadsticks at my Harris Teeter that the recipe calls for, so I use Reduced Fat Crescent Rolls instead. Tastes just fine to me.

I don't have the 11 x 7 pan it calls for, so I have to bake it in 2 small pans.


Here's the recipe I got from Cooking Light:

Cooking spray

3 1/2 cups diced baking potato (about 1 1/4 pounds)

1 cup chopped onion

1 1/4 pounds ground sirloin

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon salt

Dash of black pepper

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup beer

1 (10.5-ounce) can beef consommè

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes with green pepper and onion, drained

2 tablespoons chopped pitted green olives

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1 (10.6-ounce) box refrigerated garlic breadsticks

Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare filling, heat a large Dutch oven coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Add

potato and onion; cover and cook 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add beef and next 6

ingredients (beef through garlic); cook, uncovered, 7 minutes or until browned, stirring to

crumble. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Add flour to pan;

cook 1 minute. Gradually add beer, consommè, and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Remove from

heat, and stir in olives and vinegar.

Spoon mixture into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Unroll both dough

portions (do not separate dough into breadsticks); roll dough together, forming a 12 x 10-inch

rectangle. Place dough on top of beef mixture, pressing to edge of dish. Cut 5 slits in top of

crust to allow steam to escape. Gently brush 1 tablespoon garlic spread that is packaged with

breadsticks over crust; reserve remaining spread for another use.

Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly around the edges. Let stand 10

minutes before serving.

And for an extra treat, Cherry-Cheese Turnovers made with fresh cherries.

Too Cute!

So I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this web cam before. But you have to check out the baby owls. They are too cute for words!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Weekend in the Mountains

For the past 3 years David and I have gone up to Roan Mountain to see the Rhododendron in bloom. This year was a little bit different in that we spent Friday night at the Mast Farm Inn. I love that place! Danielle and Sandra (sisters and the innkeepers) truly treat you like someone special. Dinner Friday night was fantastic, only to be followed up with an amazing breakfast. The next day we reluctantly left the inn and headed up to Roan Mountain to see the blooms. Although they weren't at their peak, the flowers were still very beautiful. And then Sunday we hiked at Crabtree Falls. With all the rain this year so far, the falls were spectacular.

Every now and then I get a little dressed up, nothing too fancy mind you. Here I am at dinner Friday night.

Dinner: fillet mignon wrapped in puff pastry, potatoes au gratin and sauteed green beans with sesame seeds. I cleaned my plate!

For dessert: apple tart with homemade vanilla ice cream.

It was a little foggy on our way up to the pinnacle at Roan Mountain but it made for neat pictures.

And here are some of the actual Rhododendron gardens on top of Roan Mountain.

So the hike to Crabtree Falls has a 2 mile loop marked strenuous, so yeah um...that patch of dirt is the trail and the stone border marks the edge of a drop-off.

Saw this guy along the way to the falls...

Lots of rain meant lots of mushrooms.

And lots of rain meant the falls looked spectacular!

And here we are in front of the falls. Please excuse the hat it's lame I know but I'm paranoid about bugs and ticks in my hair.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Favorite Things

Many of you guys know about Etsy and what a wonderful shopping community it is. I buy so many things off etsy because I feel like I am supporting the average person not a big cooperation. I do what I can.

One of my favorite shops is the bath and body store by SpaGoddess. The owner Jessica creates wonderful things for the face and body. Her products are natural and organic for the most part. She never uses petroleum, sulphates phthalates or parabens. For those of you wanting to try out a product or two, here are my favorites. She also offers travel sizes in a lot of the items. So please check out her store on Etsy, you won't regret any purchase.

I personally love my Facial Cleansing Grains. I bought the 3 piece sample set at first but I have settled on the Ayurvedic one. I use these in the shower in place of face wash and you can make a paste and use it as face mask.

Then there are the salt scrubs. I love salt scrubs in the shower. They make your skin so soft and there is no need for lotion afterwards. And unlike other brands, Jessica does not use perfumes that contain all those nasty chemicals. Again, I bought a sampler pack at first where you get to pick the scents in the set. But I have decided that Rock Star Detox is my favorite.

And the newest product I'm trying out is a natural perfume using beeswax and essential oils instead of artificial scents and alcohol. Perfumes worry me with all those estrogen mimickers so close to your skin. This natural perfume is a great substitute. And the Honey Jasmine smells awesome!

**We're heading up to the mountains this weekend, so no posting. No internet! Friday we are going to one of my favorite places The Mast Farm Inn. David & I got married there and we like to go back from time to time. The Bed & Breakfast is so quaint and beautiful. The food is amazing! And the innkeepers Danielle and Sandra will treat you like royalty. I will definitely post pictures of our lovely evening when I get back. And then Saturday we will be up in Roan Mt, TN for the rhododendron blooms.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Breakfast This Morning

So I was up early (again) and this time I decided to take time and make pancakes. I used a recipe for pumpkin spice pancakes from a blog I follow called Musing on the Mountain. Her recipe is very tasty! I did the extra bit with walnuts and cranberries. And over the weekend we went up to the mountains for cherries. While up in the country, I found some sweet potato butter at a country store and I ate it with my pancakes.

Here is the final product. One has syrup and the other has my sweet potato butter. Love these!!!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Dinner Tonight 6/15/09

I'm calling tonight's dinner Mediterranean stuffed chicken. It's really easy to make, delicious and low fat. I have these special silicon ties that make rolling the chicken up very easy. I used to have an exact recipe but I lost that a while ago so you'll just have to use your own judgement.

First you saute a clove or two of garlic. Then add some thawed chopped spinach. Next add some chopped sun-dried tomatoes. You can buy the dried ones and reconstituted them in warm water or I buy the oil packed ones in a jar and just pat them dry with paper towels. So stir those three ingredients around in the skillet for a bit. Then add salt and pepper to taste. I add a pinch of oregano, you could also add a pinch of cayenne pepper for a spicy version. Then take the pan off the heat and add some cream cheese (approx. 2 Tbsp per serving). I use the 1/3 less fat. Then let the mixture cool a little. And lastly add some feta cheese crumbles. I use reduced fat feta cheese.

Now I make a basting sauce of lemon juice, garlic, oregano and dijon mustard.

Take 2 chicken breasts that have been pounded out to about 1/4 of an inch thick and season with salt & pepper. Scoop the filling into the center of each piece and roll it up. You can tie it, pin it with toothpicks or use the handy dandy silicon ties. Now baste the chickens with the sauce you made and put in a foil lined pan.

Bake at 375 for 30-45 min. until the internal temperature is 160.

Voile! I served it with all kinds of veggies tonight. In particular, the picture shows some roasted Mediterranean squash. I love this stuff! By mid summer everyone at our farmers market is selling it. It's like a cross between zucchini and yellow summer squash.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Farmers Market Lunch

So going to the farmers market yesterday reminded me of some of the good things about living in North Carolina. Although it's only the beginning of June, the fruits and veggies are pouring into the market. We had a great time choosing from all sorts of yummy fruits and veg. After the market and some gardening, I made a lunch fit for a king. Fresh sourdough bread from some Mennonite bakers, farmers market tomatoes, my homegrown lettuce along with some bacon = delicious BLT. Served with some ripe and mouthwatering plums! Nice way to end my hot afternoon.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Souvenirs (cont'd)

Totoro to-toro...totoro to-toro...The theme song gets stuck in my head so easily.

One of the highlights of Tokyo was our visit to Studio Ghibli. That was an amazing museum. The creators did a great job with the design of the exhibits. Miyazaki created many great animated films that we both enjoy and will share with our kids (0ne day). And I guess I can share these guys too....

For those of you not familiar with this classic, you can watch the trailer. My Neighbor Totoro

Friday, June 12, 2009


So now that I am slowly getting back into the swing of things, I have a lot of laundry and straightening up to do. So I think I'll post some of my favorite purchases from Japan. So first off is my favorite gift, Japanese cultured pearls. I love pearls. I know that not everyone does but I feel that they are so classic. David bought me a beautiful set of 8-8.5 mm pearl earrings and necklace. They are gorgeous! A bit extravagant but hey who knows when we'd go back to Japan right?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Home Again

Good to be home! Japan was amazing but home is home. And after a 30 hour travel day, we caught up on some well deserved rest yesterday. Today we went to one of my favorite lunch spots Zaytoon. For those of you in the Greensboro area who like Mediterranean food, this place is the best in town.

Over the next couple of days I think I'll post some of my favorite souvenirs from our Japan trip. And maybe a few more photos that didn't make it into my brief nightly blogs.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Nanzenji Temple & Heian Shrine

Well we slept in a little today. Someone had a bit much to drink last night (not me) plus we will be getting up super early tomorrow to make our flight to Tokyo in order to begin our journey home, so we got a late start today.  We took in the very scenic and large Nanzenji Temple complex with has several temples, shrines and gardens.  Then we visited the Traditional Craft Museum in which they displayed many of the traditional arts and crafts of Kyoto along with video clips documenting some the artisans.  After that we headed to the Heian Shrine which was huge and bright orange!  It also had a lovely garden.  Then we finished up some last minute souvenir shopping and grabbed some dinner.  We are almost packed up for our journey home.  We have had a great time here but it will be nice to be home again.

Here's a lovely natural style zen garden up at the Nanzenji Temple area.

These guys were so cute! All piled up on one rock!

There appeared to be an aqueduct on the site but the sign was in Japanese.  We still took pictures though.

Gate to the Heian Shrine.  Honestly sometimes the gates are more impressive than the buildings that hold the shrines.

Beautiful irises and water lilies in one of the ponds at the temple.

Me on the stepping stones that cross the pond.

View from across the pond looking at the wooden bridge that takes you back to the temple site.

Arashiyama & Higashiyama-ku

Well we wanted a break from the busy city life, so we took the train 20 minutes to the outskirts of Kyoto to the Arashiyama district.  Here we found a bamboo path and the Tenryuji Temple with its lovely garden.  In the afternoon we walked through the Higashiyama district in Kyoto to the Sanjusangendo Hall and Kiyomizu Temple.  And then right before dinner we acted the like the paparazzi and tried to catch a glimpse of a geisha.  

David finally got to see his bamboo forest.  It was quite beautiful.

Lotus flower in the garden at the Tenryuji Temple.

The Tenryuji Temple garden.

Part of the Kiyomizu Temple complex.  It had a great view of Kyoto which is surrounded by mountains.

So you have to be patient and then very quick with your photos but if you are lucky, you might catch a geisha (in this photo a maiko) coming out of her house and into a cab.

Here she is again with her geisha chaperone. 

Steaks on the grill!  This meat was truly the most marbled steak I'd ever seen.  And the chef cooks it on a hardwood charcoal grill.

Steak dinner from Saga beef.  I don't enjoy steak very much but this was delicious! So tender.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Kyoto Morning

So while reviewing the dozens and dozens of photos that we took today (we both have been constantly snapping photos this whole trip), I realized that I haven't posted too many of our "artsy" shots.  We love looking and finding all the little cool and sometimes often passed over details at the popular spots.  Today we visited more shrines and a palace (I'm too tired to look up their names right now).  But also this post isn't about what major building we saw.  Take a closer look at Japanese architecture, horticulture and design.  Enjoy!

Base of an incense burner.

Roof tile detail.

Garden of a shogun.

Man and Nature in harmony.

Straw Roof

Detail of a random shrub.

Immense variety in plants.

More Roof Tiles

Zen Garden

Lantern Detail cheese shot.

Here we are at the Golden Pavilion.