The Second Time Around

Man, things are so different the second time around. With Lilli, we were so clear with our rules: No sugar until her first birthday, no screen time until she’s two. And now with Bea? She had Fluff last week and has seen every presidential debate to date. (And let’s just say Lilli is making up for lost time with the screens.)

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Now, now, it’s not as bad as it sounds. We’d made Lilli a Fluffernutter which she obviously rejected after one nibble. Since we’d been given explicit directions by the pediatrician to expose Bea to all the allergens that trip kids up – her first bit of peanuts was mushed-up Bamba a month ago – we figured, why not give her a little? And she loved it. I mean, what’s not to love? It’s all sugar.

fluffernutter

We’re not doing that much better for our own dinners. We ate nachos for dinner last week. To be fair, it was National Nachos Day, and the nachos involved roasted butternut squash that had been tossed with maple syrup and sprinkled with cayenne and cumin. There were also sweet balsamic onions that did a perfect job of balancing the spice of the squash. They were phenomenal, and would have been even better if I’d used the gruyere that the recipe called for instead of the shredded cheddar we have on hand for Lilli’s quesadillas. (She likes them best with stars and moons carved into them. Thanks, Ranger Rick Jr. magazine for that pro tip.)

quesadilla

The recipe comes from The Ultimate Nachos cookbook, which is home to the horchata recipe I just shared with you guys. Some might be surprised to hear how much use a nacho cookbook gets used in my kitchen, but I’m really serious about my nachos. There’s a taco shop very close to us, Lone Star Taco, that makes my favorite ones in town. I went there solo on my birthday for them, and that’s where I’ve chosen my Mother’s Day brunch two years in a row. What can I say, I really dig nachos. Incidentally, Guy Fieri featured the place on his Boston show and we once totally sat next to some fans of his who had come specifically on his recommendation. And yes, I told them to get the nachos.

nachos

Being a nacho recipe, it’s pretty straight forward, except that I found the directions for prepping the squash a bit confusing. After I peeled the squash, I cubed half, then sliced each piece thinly, and saved the other half for this recipe. It honestly didn’t take very long to do.

Autumnal Nachos

½ butternut squash

2 Tablespoons maple syrup

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

½ teaspoon ground cumin

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter

1 large red onion, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon sugar

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

7 ounces corn tortilla chips – approximately half of a store-bought bag, or, if prepared fresh, use 15 corn tortillas, each cut into 6 triangles

6 ounces shredded Gruyere cheese (about 1 ½ cups)

¼ cup sour cream

Directions

Preheat oven to 425F

Peel the butternut squash and then cut it in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds and fibers from the center. Thinly slice the squash and then cut it in half again lengthwise.

In a medium bowl, toss the squash with the maple syrup, cayenne, and cumin.

Place the squash on a parchment paper or aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Roast the squash for 20 minutes, or until tender.

While the squash is roasting, melt the butter in a skillet. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat until a deep brown color, 10 to 15 minutes. Be careful not the burn the onion.

Stir in the sugar and balsamic vinegar and season with a bit of salt and pepper. Cook the onion for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350F.

Layer the tortilla chips on a 9×13-inch baking sheet. Evenly distribute the squash and onion over the chips. Cover the chips with the shredded cheese.

Bake the nachos for 10 to 15 minutes until the cheese has melted.

Serve the nachos with sour cream on the side.

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A Spoon Also Works

Last week I made a terrible curry. Well, maybe terrible is too strong a word, but not by much. Lately I’ve been testing out different slow cooker cookbooks that have made their way to my mailbox. With the full time job and two little girls, I’m trying to find just the right recipes for our weeknights, with the hope, of course, to share the really good ones with you.

Bea in a Bjorn

The big issue with this curry was the carrots. The recipe called for thin slices of the vegetable to be cooked for five or six hours on low, but they were still crunchy when it was time to have dinner. Rich had less of an issue with the recipe than I did and dutifully ate all the leftovers for the following week. Lilli, who I have taken to calling “Picky Picky”, ate the rice.

Still, the curry wasn’t a complete disaster because it meant I had a leftover cup of coconut milk in the fridge. I had bookmarked a recipe a year ago that called for a scant cup of coconut milk, which had I promptly forgot about until last week. So the recipe I have for you today is for coconut curd; yes, like lemon curd, but with coconut instead. And yes, it’s just as amazing as it sounds. I think when I licked the spoon while I was working on it I actually said out loud in my empty kitchen, “Oh dear God, this might be one of the best tasting things I’ve ever made.”

It’s from Artisan Preserving, a really beautiful cookbook I was sent last year. It’s full of really incredible sounding preserves and jams and curds, like black pepper and cumin jelly, gingered plum chutney, and, irony of ironies, Thai curry paste. Apparently coconut curd, also known as Kaya, or Coconut Egg Jam, is a popular preserve in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. The authentic version calls for screwpine, or pandan, leaves which apparently have a pine and citrus taste. I am including it here, just in case you happen to have a screwpine tree growing in your backyard. If you do have a screwpine tree growing in your backyard, can I come over in say, mid-February? Coconut curd is served on toast, although I think a spoon also works.

robot

The recipe calls for a balloon whisk, but I just fudged it with the whisk I had in my kitchen. I’ve always fudged on sterilizing, but Ms. Macdonald made it sound so simple that I went and did it, and it was! She offers several ways to sterilize a jar, and I am only including the version I chose as it was the easiest. My sister Amanda gave me these bright green rubbery heat resistant oven gloves for my birthday, which were absolutely perfect for handling the hot metal lids and glass jars.

As for other ingredients, I still had palm sugar in the house from when I made this secret eggplant salad. I found the bag in the food section of Home Goods, a wonderful aisle full of goodies like fresh vanilla beans and pink peppercorns. Please don’t let not having palm sugar stop you from making this; I think brown sugar will make a fine substitute.

Coconut Curd from Artisan Preserving by Emma Macdonald

Ingredients

Scant 1 cup coconut milk

¼ cup palm sugar

¼ cup granulated sugar

4 fresh screwpine (pandine) leaves (optional)

4 large eggs

Makes about 10 ounces (1 cup). Preparation time: 20 minutes Cooking time: 25 minutes

Sterilize enough small jars in the oven so that they are ready to use (directions to follow)

Put the coconut milk, palm and granulated sugars, and screwpine leaves, if using, in the top of a double boil set over gently simmering water. Stir the mixture until the sugar has dissolved.

Break the eggs into a bowl and, using a balloon whisk, beat together well. Whisk the eggs into the coconut mixture.

Heat gently and cook about 20 minutes, whisking frequently, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Do not let the mixture boil or it will curdle. If the curd does start to split, remove from the heat and whisk vigorously until smooth.

Remove the screwpine leaves, if you have used them.

Pour the curd into the warmed, sterilized jars. Cover immediately with sterilized lids. Let cool completely before storing in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks. Once opened, eat within 3 days.

Sterilizing Bottles & Jars

The importance of sterilizing cannot be emphasized enough; it is essential so that your preserves do not deteriorate during storage. Always sterilize an extra bottle or jar in case it is needed. Remove any labels if you are reusing bottles or jars, and wash all in very hot, soapy water.

Do not dry the washed bottles or jars but put them upright on a baking sheet, about 2 inches apart, and put in the oven. Turn on the heat to 350F and once the oven has reached this temperature, leave the bottles or jars in the oven 20 minutes to ensure they are completely sterilized. Most preserves will be hot when they’re canned so it makes sense to keep the bottles or jars in the oven until needed; reduce the temperature slightly. Wear protective oven mitts when handling the hot bottles and jars.

Sterilizing lids: Put the lids in a pot of water, bring to a boil and boil 10 minutes. Make sure they are dry before using to avoid condensation forming. An alternative method is to fill the hot sterilized bottles or jars with the hot preserve, screw on the lids and then turn the bottles or jars upside down 1 minute. Wear protective oven mitts or cover the bottle or jar with a kitchen towel when you do this to avoid burning yourself. This effectively sterilizes the insides of the lids.