♦ Life is Good!

Dear Shaina,

Yep…you upped the gross factor!  But I did love reading about the shechting process.  And it is very much about the process..just as life is.  Doesn’t so much matter where you go, but how you get there.  I do have to say the Chanukah cookies with the green avocado sesame glop didn’t look so appetizing either. Especially juxtaposed to the bloody goat slaughter description. I am in shock that you actually tasted goat! You, who has never even had a McDonalds hamburger in your life! What did it taste like? The thought of anything goat grosses me out.  I am the only person I know, except for your Dad, who even hates goat cheese.

As far as your child rearing advice…It is every mother’s greatest pleasure to say to their child “I cant wait until you have children of your own!” Because I’ll be watching…

Anyway, I am in the midst of getting ready for the annual Christmas trek to Dad’s family in South Carolina.   I just bought a turkey to prepare for dinner in S.C. Last night I made a squash casserole, Chocolate/almond Cheesecake (an annual request) and a no sugar added, gluten free apple crisp. We are stopping at the farm on the way to pick some kale for you so you can get your fix of fresh greens and turnips.

Have Cheesecake...Will Travel!

Have Cheesecake…Will Travel!

Trite as it sounds, its hard to believe another year has flown by. The years really do seem to pass exponentially faster as you get older.  The last time I made a cheesecake was a year ago…for the Shealy Christmas dinner.  You had just started your job…can you believe a year already? Next month, it will be two years since I retired.  It doesn’t seem possible…and I haven’t even started cleaning out the closets!

I am beginning to understand why people my age say that these are the best years of your life.  If you are fortunate enough to have lived to this age, you know how quickly your time on this earth passes.  You are finally free from the fantasies of what you thought life would or should be.  And your true wants become crystallized as you fill the new-found space in your life with family, friends and activities that nurture your mind (mah jong), fortify your body (yoga) and enrich your soul (cooking, writing, sharing, loving, thinking, praying and being grateful).  No more wasted worries, punishing judgments or chasing somebody else’s dreams.

Life is good! I know how little time is left and I aim to make the most of it…even if I leave you with a lot of overstuffed closets!

Have a safe flight and we’ll see you very soon, greens and veggies in hand!

Love,

Mom
Xooxoxoxoxoxoxoxo


SQUASH CASSEROLE

This very easy recipe is a variation on a Southern tradition. There is a lot of room for modification based on tastes and dietary needs. Any cheese will work.  Sauteed mushrooms and green onions can be added to the basic squash mixture before baking.  Garlic, basil, tarragon, dill or Indian spices can be added to give a unique flavor to this basic squash casserole recipe.   It freezes and travels well, feeds a crowd and makes a great brunch dish.

Ready to Pop in the Oven

Ready to Pop in the Oven

BASIC CASSEROLE

  • 5 pounds (about) of yellow crook necked squash cut up in large chunks
  • 3 carrots cut in large chunks
  • 1 – 2 onions quartered
  • 2 TBLSP butter (room temp) + 1 TBLSP for casserole dish
  • 1 ½ cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • ½ Cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt (low fat is fine)
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • Vegetable Bouillon (optional)
  • Salt, pepper

TOPPING

  • 1 cup bread crumbs, plain or seasoned (or ground up crackers, corn flakes or favorite savory crumb topping)*
  •  2 TBLSP melted butter
  • ¾ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (more or less as desired)
Gluten-Free Nut Topping

Gluten-Free Nut Topping

*For a gluten-free topping, substitute your favorite chopped nuts and ground up rice crackers or other gluten-free crackers

DIRECTIONS
Place cut up squash, carrots and onions in a large pot filled with salted (or use veggie or chicken flavored soup powder) water to barely cover veggies.

Boil water and cook veggies until tender.

Drain cooked squash and veggies thoroughly.  (I save the seasoned drained liquid and use it as a base for homemade soup. If you have no plans to make soup, put it in a container and freeze it for the next time you do.)

Preheat oven to 350°

Blend while hot

Blend while hot

Put hot drained vegetables in a large bowl and use a stick blender to chop and blend the onions carrots and squash until they are the consistency of coarse baby food (in fact, if you have a baby, take some out at this point and reserve for baby).

Add 2 TBLSP of butter to the hot veggies and stir in until melted.

Add Cheese

Add Cheese

Add shredded cheese and thoroughly mix in.

Add sour cream or yogurt and mix in.  Taste for seasonings and add salt, pepper or optional spices to taste.

Mix in lightly beaten eggs.

Place 1 TBLSP of butter in a 9” x 13” glass baking pan or other large casserole baking dish. Preheat in oven until butter is melted and slightly browned.

Mix all topping ingredients together.

Pour squash mixture into heated buttered baking dish.  Top with topping mixture and bake for 45 minutes or until casserole is set and topping is browned.  If topping is browning too quickly, cover with foil.

If you plan on freezing and reheating, cook for 30 minutes without topping.  Cool and freeze.  When you are ready to serve, defrost thoroughly.   Add topping and bake at 350° for 30 – 45 minutes.

BASIC APPLE CRISP

No Sugar Added
Gluten-Free

  • About 5 pounds of your favorite apples, peeled, cored and sliced (¼” thick)
  • ½ – ¾ cup of raisins or currants
  • Zest and juice of 1 orange
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp almond extract
  • 1 – 2 TBLSP ground Cinnamon (or to taste)

    For dessert or Breakfast!

    For dessert or Breakfast!

TOPPING

  • 1 Cup rolled oats
  • 1 Cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 TBLSP melted butter
  • Cinnamon to taste

Preheat oven to 350°

Mix cut up apples, raisins, zest, juice, spices and flavorings in a very large bowl until all flavors and ingredients are blended.

Put 1 TBLSP of butter in a deep 9”x13” casserole dish and heat in oven until butter is melted and slightly browned.

Mix together all topping ingredients a small bowl.

Spoon fruit mixture into heated, buttered casserole dish as full as possible to the limit of the dish.  The apples will shrink as they cook.

IMG_0724
Top with topping mix.

Place in oven for about an hour until apples are thoroughly cooked and juices at bottom of pan are bubbly and topping is browned.  If topping browns too quickly, turn oven to 325° halfway through the baking time.

This dish freezes well.

It makes a great dessert warm and served with ice cream  or whipped cream  I love it for breakfast served with plain Greek Yogurt.

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