Butternut Squash “Lasagna”

I got in the mood to cook this weekend. I was going to make eggplant lasagna bundles, but then I realized our Hello Fresh box has eggplant in it this week. So I scoured some recipes and decided to try a Butternut Squash and Polenta lasagna.

Let me preface this with the weather. I’ve been in Florida for six years now and cannot remember a stretch with this much constant, pouring rain. A thirty minute afternoon shower? Sure. A whole day deluge followed by a week of the same? Not so much. I’m pretty sure if I waded into the grass I’d find mushrooms and poor puppy just isn’t getting the walks she needs.

This discussion of the weather does have an actual purpose beyond the explaining why I wanted to spend the day in the kitchen. As I gathered all the ingredients for my experiment I realized I needed rosemary and thyme. Rosemary and thyme are in my garden and I don’t have a stash of frozen or dried on hand. So what is a girl to do? Well … I sent Bob into the weather to acquire my herbs. Aka – I made him go venture forth into the pouring rain, wade through the puddles and bravely harvest some herbs. I figure, I do all the cooking, this was his contribution to the meal.

I started with making polenta. The recipe I used called for a different polenta than the Alton Brown miracle polenta I use all the time, but I decided to give it a try. I chopped my shallots, measured my water and milk, grated my cheese and went to work.

It was looking pretty good, but I probably should have cooked it a little longer. It didn’t set as I expected, but the flavors were still good.

As the polenta cooked I got the squash ready. Peeled, sliced, piled and seasoned into the oven they went.

Next up was the chard and cheese. I know chard goes from massive pile to almost nothing with cooking, but I always get a tad nervous when I start making it.

With a mound like that, do you blame me?
The chard, once cooked down into a handful, and cooled was combined with ricotta and fontina cheeses, an egg and some seasoning. I was ready to assemble.

Layer of polenta (should have been set, but I rushed this part) then the cheese and chard followed by butternut squash and then all repeated. It looked super pretty in the pan.

But a little less so once I cooked it and played it.

However, the taste was fantastic. It had some earthiness from the chard, a little sweetness from the squash and a creamy texture and herbal note from the polenta. I can’t wait to have this for lunch the rest of the week.

Future notes … I’m going to use the Alton Brown Polenta instead of the one in the recipe. It always works and it is just perfect. I may keep the herbs, but I’m going back to the basic recipe for this. Also, I’m probably using more ricotta or a smaller pan than they said. It was almost not enough for that layer. I’m keeping the chard and the roasted squash. I really loved this dish and with fall coming, I think it going to be perfect.

Also, I paired this with a cider – and not just any cider, a kiwi cider from New Zealand.

I wasn’t sure about this initially, but I love ciders, love kiwi and have a particular fondness for fruit ciders. This did not disappoint. In fact, I got a fruit taste, but not kiwi in particular but there was a great, clean cider taste that was perfect. It doesn’t beat the Stella on tap in England, but it does, at the very least, rival the bottled Stella Cidre I get here in the States.

Curry Attempt #?

What a week. I can’t say for certain that I’ve been really busy and I’m certainly not stressed out, but it has been a little while since I’ve posted. I have done some experimenting in the kitchen which is generally a good thing.

I love a good curry. That creamy, rich gravy/sauce that has layers and layers of flavors. I’ve tried making curry before and … well … The results were less than spectacular. Part of me wants to place a standing order with our local Indian restaurant to be delivered once a week, but another part really, really wants to conquer making curry.

In my quest to make good, homemade curry, I came across a blog that had what looked like a reasonable korma recipe. I’ve read and re-read this recipe for months (no exaggeration), copied down the shopping list and plotted and planned exactly how to do this. I want good, homemade curry, darn it.

I started on Saturday with making a curry base that just seemed ingenious. Curries all do have a similar starting point, so why not? The answer to that same as Bob and I chopped ten (yes, ten) onions Saturday afternoon. But we chopped the onions, I gathered all my spices, made my mixture and got to work. It takes time to cook down ten chopped onions.

And yes, I had to use two pots. I made the base, and I think it went ok. I definitely need a good blender. I just have a food processor (which I adore) but it doesn’t make things smooth and creamy. But I made do and after a few more steps and a lot of time, I had a curry base that seemed like I was on the right track.

Sunday came and it was time to try for a Korma. Vegetable Korma to be exact. I broke out the recipe, gathered my ingredients and went to work. It seemed easy enough and it looked like a korma.

IMG_2745.JPG It smelled like korma and it even kind of tasted like korma … But it was missing something. The texture was definitely off but I blame most of that on the missing blender. It was also just missing something else. The deep flavor, the rich, creamy almost heavy sauce. It wasn’t bad, it was far better than my prior attempts at curry, but it just wasn’t the korma of the local Indian restaurant.

Somehow I have to convince Bob that he wants Indian this weekend (or just meet up with one of the girls and go for it) or buy a fancy blender and thicker coconut milk. While experimenting and tweaking the recipe sounds like a ton of fun, I might just go for the real stuff. Thankfully, they deliver.

I can also place part of the blame on Gracie. She is super cute, but she does tend to get underfoot when I’m cooking.

Animal Kingdom

One of the nice things about Sarasota is that it’s a two hour drive from Orlando. I am a huge Disney fan so when we decide we want to go for a day, we can. This week we decided we wanted to go to Animal Kingdom so we got up Saturday morning, headed up and spent a really nice day out.

I am not a huge zoo fan and always feel bad about the animals in captivity. AK has some of the same issues, but from what I remember when researching, a good number of the animals in AK were injured and not able to survive in the wild. I’m sure it’s not all of them, but if the idea is to get people to see what diversity of life is out there and start taking steps to safeguard it, than I’ll be ok with the animals being there. Not being a wildlife expert, I can’t comment on living conditions or how much area each need, but from a lay person perspective, they always look well cared for and with enough room to roam.

So yes, I am aware of the controversy surrounding this park, but I still love going there. I stopped this time and focused on some of the smaller, less appreciated animals there. The bats, the birds I can’t identify (they are all fowl to me)


IMG_2703.JPG and the meerkats. I could watch the meerkats all day. They are adorably cute and remind me a lot of the kitties at home – especially when Gracie wants to come inside and the door is closed. She does the same stand on back legs and stretch that the meerkats do.

I also have a particular draw to the Affection Station (aka the petting zoo area) of the Conservation Station. Now, inside the conservation station are some less pet-able animals like the tree lizard

IMG_2716.JPG Yes, I know it has a different name, but I can’t remember it. This little guy reminded me of the lizards Gracie and Leia like to bring home … only way larger. But it is the petting friendly animals I really go to see.


The cow and pigs were cute, but there was a particular goat that I really liked. He was super affectionate and just wanted attention. I wanted to bring him home, but Bob wasn’t sure we could get him to the car.


After Animal Kingdom we checked another restaurant off our list. We had dinner at Jiko, the Cooking Place.

Jiko is inside Animal Kingdom Lodge and has African and Mediterranean inspired dishes. When we looked at the menu, we didn’t see a lot of that influence, but once you taste the food, it is all right there. We also tried a South African wine – a Pinotage. Having never heard if this varietal we asked the waiter for information and suggestions.

IMG_2719.JPG We ended up with a dry, fruity, medium to full bodied wine that was different than anything I’ve had before and paired incredibly well with dinner. We started with the Taste of Africa – a selection of breads and dips that ran from classic hummus to a spicy chili and tamarind dip.

For dinner itself Bob went classic with short ribs

IMG_2723.JPG and I went vegetarian with the Sambusas. These are similar to Indian Samosas, but the flavor profile is entirely different. Excellent, but different.


All in all, it was a fantastic day. We have another a Disney day planned next month – food and wine fest and all – and I’m sure we will get out there again. After all, it’s Disney.

Curried Corn Soup

I’ve been a little lax in posting recently and I’d like to blame it on being super busy at work, but I just can’t. I have regular hours (they rotate throughout the week, but they are regular) and I’m not doing a ton outside those hours. Oh, I do some work Sunday mornings before Bob gets up, but I don’t feel crazy busy or stressed like I use to. I’ve been pretty good about cooking, and Bob has even starting prepping the ingredients Thursday evenings so all I gave to do is cook. It’s nice.

But this weekend I did cook and I experimented. I saw a corn soup recipe that I thought looked interesting and would make great lunches this week. I started out following the recipe – remove the kernels from the cob, dice the pepper and roast everything. IMG_0730.JPG
After that I started having a few issues. I cut the cobs and covered them with water to simmer, but how much water? How do I know when enough flavor has been extracted? I kept checking the cob water, but it just never seemed really … corny? Anyway, I melted butter, added the garlic and onion and sweated those down while keeping an eye on the cobs. I added the corn and peppers, tossed everything with salt, pepper and paprika then added the water and milk.


It was missing something. I tried more paprika and a little more salt, but it wasn’t enough. I then added some curry powder and more salt. Almost. More paprika, more salt (probably a teaspoon or less total) and more curry powder. Just about perfect. The soup has a great flavor, but was a little thin. I think next time I’m going to simmer the cobs in milk instead of water and skip adding it at the end.

I think I’m trying a version of eggplant lasagna this next week. If all goes well (and probably even if it doesn’t) I’ll try to get that up too.

Hope everyone is well.

When It Rains, It Pours

Ever have one of those days? Of course you have, that’s why we all say it was ‘one of those days.’ It’s universal. Some day, sometime, everything seems to go wrong at once.

My “day” started off last night. Multiple times last night. What happened? Tigger happened.

So cute. So sweet. So innocent looking. … The loudest cat you’ve heard outside a wild animal. Tigger, for all he’s afraid of everything, will sing the sing if his people, at max volume, multiple times a night. This is also interspersed with Gracie playing with her catnip ball.

IMG_0680.JPG Super cute and super sweet kitten, but she is not exactly a delicate player.

So we had the multiple wake ups from the cats last night followed by my alarm going off at five am. No big deal except for the life of me I could not turn it off. I managed to turn on the nightlight feature I didn’t know it had, but it took me so long to turn it off, I thought for certain Bob would be awakened by this. After finally getting the alarm off, I managed to trip over Tigger on the way to the bathroom before turning on the coffee pot only to have it not work.

Not only did the coffee pot not work, it managed to break in the loudest possible way. Out coffee pot has a bean grinder option. We never use it because it sounds like a tanker truck rumbling through the kitchen, or a jackhammer digging up the tile. For this reason I grind my beans in a regular grinder and set the coffee the night before. This morning, however, I pushed “start” and rather start brewing, it goes to grind beans that are not there. Realize the settings are correct – set to pre ground and brew – and I’ve done this pretty much every weekday morning since we got the coffee pot a year or so ago. But this morning it just would not work. I tried a second time with the same results. I unplugged the coffee pot, reset everything, and tried again. Same result. After the fourth or fifth attempt I was afraid Bob (whom I was certain was now totally awake) I nixed the regular pot of coffee and decided to use the weekend one cup at a time coffee maker.

So after a night of no sleep, trouble with the alarm clock (at least it went off at the correct time), tripping over a cat, a loud and broken coffee pot, I was ready to head to work … And could not find Gracie. She decided to wander a bit this morning, like she does most mornings, but she hasn’t gotten use to my new work schedule so she was no where to be found when I had to leave. I left a note in the one place I knew Bob would find it – on the coffee pot – and asked him to look for her before he left. And oh yes, the coffee pot is broken.

Because I can’t do two days of no (or very limited coffee) in the morning, we decided to go out and get a new coffee pot this evening. Wouldn’t you know we got caught in a down pour, soaking both of us. I thought the pouring rain was pretty fitting for the day. But we have a new coffee pot!

Needless to say, Bob picked this one out, but I think it’s very pretty. It’s also very simple and has few parts so I’m hoping it lasts longer than the last one. As long as the cheap coffee pot that brewed pretty good coffee that Bob had for years would be fantastic.

Oh. And Gracie got a new box.

So while this was a comedy of errors kind of day, it was still a good day. The new job is fantastic. I commented to a Bob that I wasn’t exactly sure what to do with myself right now. I’m not stressed out, don’t have a knot in my stomach and actually like going into work each day. It’s weird, but in a very good way.

And on that little note, I’m going to end this day by getting my coffee set for the morning and try to sleep through Tigger’s singing tonight.