Maine fits like a new pair of jeans. It has all the potential to be a perfect fit and my most comfortable pair, but it will take a bit of time. My days are filled with completing job applications and writing cover letters. I’ve forgotten how much of a waiting game a job search can be, and it’s driving me a little crazy. I’m a much happier person when I’m busy and working. When I lived in Fairbanks, I worked as a director and instructor at a non-profit, so my days were chocked full of work. Post-it notes plastered my desk, my phone rang every twenty minutes and there rarely was a dull moment. I never thought I would miss the work as much as I do.
Soon enough, I will be back in the rat race, so I’m taking time to get to know this place I now call home. Yesterday, while I was preparing the recipe for this week’s post, I looked out the back window and saw a flock of loons swimming on the lake. Apparently, they are the neighborhood’s favorite residents and are treated as such. I grabbed my camera and rushed out to the dock to take pictures, but I was too late. They were a little too far off shore to capture with my camera. I did capture this, though:
I am so thankful to have the opportunity to enjoy a longer autumn. Between my house and the city, there are multiple roadside stands selling pumpkins and squash. Really, they’re card tables set up in people’s driveways with coffee cans, situated between a homegrown sugar pie pumpkin and turban squash, which serve as deposit boxes.
This past weekend, I pulled over to one of the stands and bought some butternut and carnival squash and some pumpkins for the porch. They were dirt cheap; $10 for the whole lot. That brought back a very fond memory of Fairbanks. My first Halloween in Alaska was one, like with all holidays, I worked desperately to keep traditions alive. I went to Fred Meyer, the local big box superstore, to buy a pumpkin because pumpkin patches are non-existent that far north. I found the perfect one; it was perfectly round and smooth, just begging to be carved. I took it up to the register to purchase it and it was $25!! It was a pay-by-the pound situation, and for the love of tradition and holidays, I coughed up the money. Was it worth it? Ask the moose who ate it two days after I set it out on the porch. I’m sure she would say it was.
Butternut squash is one of my favorite veggies. It’s versatile, slightly sweet, and it holds up well when cooked. The texture varies, depending on how long and how you cook it. Butternut and kale gnocchi and butternut risotto are regulars on our autumn menu and since I had a couple butternut squash on hand, I wanted to make something out of the ordinary. I consulted America’s cookbook for inspiration and came across the page of fruit butters:
And immediately thought, why not butternut butter?! To cut down on stove top time and to give it that full bodied roasted flavor, I roasted the butternut squash before pureeing. That was a good move. Mixed with apple cider, pumpkin pie spice, and sweetened by maple syrup, this is clean recipe that tastes great on crackers, mixed into yogurt, or to eat by the spoonful. You could easily can it, too. I ate all of mine before I thought about canning it for the winter. It’s that good.
Here it is with greek yogurt and honey-cashew-pumpkin seed granola. Now, that was an awesome breakfast.
- 2 butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
- Oil and butter for coating squash
- 2 cups of fresh apple cider
- 1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup maple syrup
- Heat oven to 400° F. Trim the ends from the squash, then halve lengthwise, discarding the seeds. Transfer the squash, cut-side up, to a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil. Rub tops of squash with oil or butter.
- Cover the squash with foil. Roast until softened, 45 to 60 minutes. Uncover and set aside until cool enough to handle. Working in batches, scoop some of the softened squash from the peels into a food processor. Add 1½ cup of apple cider, reserving extra ½ cup for later.
- Puree the squash mixture until smooth.
- In a saucepan over medium heat, combine cider-puree mixture, pumpkin pie spice, salt, and maple syrup. Stir to mix.
- Simmer mixture, uncovered, over medium for 20 minutes stirring occasionally. If mixture begins to dry out, add reserved apple cider.
- After 20 minutes, remove from heat. Enjoy immediately, store in the fridge, or can to enjoy later.