Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Too pooped to post!

Well, almost. I had a very long couple of days and dinner tonight was just sandwiches and cantelope. I'll be home tomorrow and should cook something good for dinner. I'll write about it but for now, I'm headed to bed!

Monday, July 23, 2007

YOYO night at our house

Tonight is YOYO night at our house. The 16 year old just ate a slab o' beef (leftover beef roast & vegetables from the other night) and my other half had a tomato sandwich. I'm not hungry yet but when I am I'll more than likely scramble a couple of eggs with some red pepper and eat that with a slice of toast. We also have some leftover Chicken Santa Fe so if I don't want eggs, I'll have that with sliced tomato and cucumber.

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I ended up eating red pepper, onion and a small new potato sauted in heart healthy margarine (yes, I like them almost burned!) and spiced with a bit of pepper, garlic powder, and some crushed red pepper and an egg fried in the same margarine. I had this with a glass of milk and it was fantastic.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Sunday lunch is so simple yet good

This is just a quickie post about our lunch today. My other half likes okra and tomatoes so I made him some with okra from the garden.

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Speaking of the garden, this is what we got from it today. Considering all the rain and the fact that most of the plants have just flooded to death, I'm happy for this!

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To make the okra and tomatoes I just dumped a drained can of whole tomatoes, five sliced fresh and tender okra pods, garlic powder, salt, and pepper into a sauce pan, covered it, and let it cook on a very low flame for about an hour. I stirred it now and then to make sure there wasn't any sticking to the pan but other than that, I pretty much ignored it.

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So our lunch was very good, thrifty, and simple. We had pan fried turkey smoked sausage, baked new potato with a little butter, salt and pepper, sliced tomato and okra and tomato.

I like simple and easy meals like this, especially in the heat of the summer.

What's your favorite hot weather meal?

Friday, July 20, 2007

Linguine with tomato sauce, green beans, and cheese garlic sticks

Last night's dinner wasn't too exciting - we had the roast and vegetables cooked in the electric pressure cooker. They were great, though. The roast was fork tender and the vegetables were just right.

My other half's cousin showed up today from Louisiana and his impromptu visit reminded me of one of the reasons I keep a well stocked pantry. It's great to know that you can feed unexpected company, whether it's one person or ten!

Tonight's dinner was linguine with homemade sauce, green beans, sliced tomatoes, and homemade cheese garlic sticks.

I often make pasta dishes (and other dishes) with ground turkey. We prefer it over beef and when it's on sale we buy a lot of it. So tonight's dinner was made with ground turkey. A lot of people don't like the texture of it but we've found that if you cook it in a little water, it breaks up easier and the texture ends up being more like ground beef.

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Here's the ground turkey cooking in a little water. When it's done, I drain the water, return the turkey to the wok, add one can of Italian stewed tomatoes, a jar of tomato sauce, and some canned mushrooms. To that I add some garlic powder or minced garlic, a bit of oregano and basil, and stir it all well. Then I let it simmer on a low flame for awhile.

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Here's the sauce as it's cooking down. Yum! About 10 minutes before the sauce is ready, I cook the pasta (tonight it's whole wheat linguine) in water with just a bit of EVOO added, then drain it and dab a little butter on it.

While the sauce was cooking down I whipped up the cheese sticks using plenty of minced garlic, mozzarella and cheddar, and just a dash of basil. I didn't bother to roll them out;instead I just patted the dough down, pricked it all over with a fork, cut it into strips the size we like and baked them at 375.

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We don't like ours very brown and we like them a little doughy so I baked them for about 10 minutes.

The linguine was a hit and so were the bread sticks. It's all gone so no leftovers for tomorrow's lunch. Hmm, we'll more than likely have smoked sausage sandwiches on toasted bread, fresh corn on the cob, and sliced tomatoes.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Beef tips and gravy over rice, served with vegetables

Tonight's dinner, Beef Tips with rice and gravy and cooked vegetables, was exceptionally good and will be on our menu on a regular basis. Unfortunately, there are no pictures of it because it got woofed down quickly!

Generally, beef tips are made with a pricey cut of beef like sirloin steak or even porterhouse steak. Well, I don't know about you but that's out of my price range! However, chuck roast pieces make a good substitute if they're cooked the right way.

I bought three chuck roasts on sale for $1.79 lb and wanted to cook one but since I'm trying to reduce our consumption of meat, I hoped to make it last for two meals. That's hard to do around here but I gave it some thought this morning and came up with a plan.

About one third of the roast I cut into bite sized pieces and the rest I left as one piece. I browned all the meat in the pressure cooker then removed the chunks and put them in the fridge. To the large portion of roast, I added one cup of water mixed with half an envelope of onion soup mix and one envelope of brown gravy mix. I let that come to pressure and cook for 22 minutes with natural release. When it was finished, I put the beef chunks back in and added onions, carrots, whole green beans and thickly sliced zucchini fresh from the garden. I let it come to pressure again and cooked it for 10 minutes, again with natural release. About half way through the 10 minutes I started rice cooking in the microwave.

Once the pressure had been released I put the large piece of meat and half the vegetables in the fridge for another night and removed the chunks of meat to a small bowl. I turned the cooker on brown and when the liquid was hot, I added about 1/3 cup of water with 2 spoons of flour blended in. Using a whisk I whisked that well until the watery soup mixes and meat juices had turned into a nice thick gravy.

I put the meat chunks back in and turned the cooker to the warm setting. Once it was hot we had the 'beef tips and gravy' over rice with some of the most delicious vegetables I've ever had! Every bite of meat was eaten as were the rice and gravy. It really was a scrumptious dinner and the remainder of the roast is safely tucked in it's bed of veggies in the back of the fridge.

Hopefully it will last until tomorrow or Friday night.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Those were the days, my friend

There's no entry about dinner tonight because I'm meeting some of the women from the local Flylady group for dinner at Cracker Barrel. I don't know if the man person and 16 year old are going or if they're going to stay here. In lieu of talking about our dinner tonight, I thought I'd address a subject near and dear to my heart...cookbooks.

I love cookbooks, just about any kind of cookbook. Among my favorites are church and community cookbooks and cookbooks that serve as basic guides to the culinary arts. I don't own a single gourmet cooking cookbook and probably never will unless someone gives me one. It just isn't something I'll buy myself because I don't cook that way for the most part.

I especially love old cookbooks - you know, the kind you find in attics, basements, languishing in thrift shops, and sometimes cruelly dumped in the trash. I don't mind the funky smell or the crackling pages or the smudges from years gone by streaking the pages, sometimes causing me to have to squint to read the ingredients. I wish those pages could talk. And I really love the images in those cookbooks. I smile a lot when I see the retro housewives with their perfectly coiffed hair, stiffly starched dresses and aprons, standing so tall in the spotless kitchen, holding a pie in one hand and hubby's pipe in the other. Not all the pictures are pleasant, though. Some of the older cookbooks have the most atrocious food pictures I've ever seen! But they still catch my eye and cause me to giggle and sometimes gasp.

I love to find the books in good condition but even the ones with breaking spines and ragged binding call for me to take them home and add them to the ones that already populate my bookshelves. And that's exactly what I did over the weekend when I went to an estate sale right down the road from me. There weren't many books and precious few cookbooks but I got the three that I wanted.

Here are two pictures of the first one, Treasures For The Home, by Mary O. Fleming, copyright 1952. This book has some yellowing but is in pretty good shape. Even the tabs marking the dividers between sections are in good shape.

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I love this second picture. It's for the chapter about personal loveliness. Charm is discussed as are things like having a pleasant personality and being easy to talk to. My oldest sister actually attended "Charm School" in Dallas back in the late 60s or very early 70s. Apparently, charm schools are still around but judging by the people I see most of the time, they have very low attendance rates. ;)

Sometimes when I look through my cookbooks I get a feeling of nostalgia that takes me back to my childhood. Of course, once I'm there I think about the foods and treats of that time and occasionally even long for some of them. I've never bought anything from this company but I really get a kick out of perusing the candy and hard to find grocery items at Hometown Favorites.

Okay, so that's my dip into the days of yore..it's time for me to get back to my house cleaning.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

A cheese cracker by any other name..

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will still taste as great! That's what I say about these wonderful and easy to make treats that the More-With-Less Cookbook calls "Cheese Sticks".

I first made these back in the mid-80s and they quickly became a favorite in our house. My sons really liked the flavor and I liked the fact that they're economical, wholesome, and so easy to make that I can make a double or triple batch in less than 30 minutes from start to finish.

I don't worry about how they look because no one here cares what they look like and they don't last long enough to even think about it. But you can make them look as pretty and neat as you want by using cookie cutters, cutting straight lines, poking the holes in an even pattern, cutting each square in half diagonally to form triangles, etc. I just roll the dough out, poke it, cut it with a sharp knife, plop it on the baking sheet and bake it.

So here's the recipe for Cheese Sticks from the More-With-Less Cookbook.

Combine:
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese (I use 1 1/2 to 2 cups)
1/2 tsp salt and dash pepper
1 1/4 cup flour (whole wheat works well)

Cut in with pastry blender:
1/3 cup butter (margarine works, too)

Sprinkle with:
3 Tbsp milk (water works as does chicken broth)

Toss with fork. Form into ball. Preheat oven to 375.

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Turn dough onto floured surface and roll out 1/8 inch thick. Sprinkle liberally with sesame seeds (I don't use the seeds) and run rolling pin over dough. Prick dough all over with a fork.

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Cut into 1x2 sticks or 2 inch squares and then into triangles. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake 10 minutes or until golden.

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I usually add a little garlic powder and some crushed red pepper to the mix and have made this with oregano, rosemary, basil and other spices. Also, if you roll the dough out thicker and shorten the baking time just a tad you have some very tasty mini-bread sticks!

This is a keeper of a recipe. Try it and let me know how your horde likes it.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Make and freeze burritos

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My other half and the 16 year old boy love burritos and now and then we buy them on sale at the grocery but though the price may be good, the nutritional content isn't. So today we made a batch of burritos for the freezer. I haven't done this in a long while and recruited my man person for opinions and tasting but the burritos are in the freezer now and my men folk are happy.

We like more meat than beans in the burritos but understand that beans do lend something to economy and nutrition. Unfortunately, they also lend quite a bit to the carbohydrate count and since two of us have Type II diabetes that's an issue to consider. In the end, here's what we did:

Browned 2.5 lbs of ground beef with some onion. When it was browned I drained the fat, put the meat into a colander, and rinsed it well under running hot water, breaking the meat into very small pieces as I rinsed it. Once it was rinsed and drained again I put it back in the wok on a very low flame and added two cans of Ranch Style Beans which had been well drained and mashed with a fork and a can of Ro-tel, drained. I mixed it all up and added crushed red pepper, garlic powder, a little salt, some black pepper and some chili powder. Then I ran it all through the blender, using the 'chop' function to mix it and mash the beans a little more. My other half tasted and added until it was to his liking so I don't have quantities of those spices. Just do it til it tastes right and you should have a gloppy mess that looks something like this.

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Once the filling was right, I spooned some (two to three large serving spoons full) onto the edge of a low carb flour tortilla, added some shredded Monterey Jack cheese, and rolled it up.

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Then I just placed it on a cookie sheet seam side down.

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I also made some with regular tortillas and the 16 year old will eat those. Each full cookie sheet went to the freezer and once the burritos are frozen they'll be individually packaged in freezer paper, labeled, bagged and put back in the freezer.

So there you have it, my basic burrito making method. It's easily adapted to whatever you have on hand or are in the mood for.

By the way, the burritos made with the low carb tortillas have a carb count of approximately 6 grams per burrito and the cost of each burrito is approximately $.50 with all the ingredients purchased on sale. I get 13 to 15 burritos per batch.

I really need to make a batch of these once a week for quick and easy snacks.

The 16 year old just had one and told me it was very good but not hot enough. Okay, more crushed red pepper in his and perhaps a little jalapeno.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Chicken and vegetables cooked in my new toy

I got a new toy today and after testing it to make sure it worked properly, I decided to use it to make dinner. Here's my new toy... do you know what it is?

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It's a beautiful Cook's Essentials 8 quart electric pressure cooker! I love cooking with pressure and have a 6 quart stove top model but this one is bound to be my new favorite. Not only was it a great deal (at about 1/3 of the normal cost) it has some really nice features like a removable cooking pot for cleaning ease and a browning feature. It will even keep food warm. If you've ever wanted a pressure cooker or if your old one is about to give it up or if you've wanted a digital one, you might want to look at this one. No, I don't get a thing for suggesting it to others - I just think this is an incredible deal and want to pass it on. By the way, although there are apparently several hundred to sell eventually they'll be gone.

So, I gave the cooker a water test and once I was sure it came to pressure properly I prepared the vegetables and chicken for dinner.

I rinsed and cut fresh green beans, onions, and zucchini from the garden and carrots from the local grocery in large pieces. Then I lightly seasoned them with Cook's Choice Brisket Rub and set them aside.

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I rubbed a whole raw chicken well, inside and out, with the same rub I put on the vegetables, put about a tablespoon of EVOO in the cooking pot, set the cooker for browning and when it was hot, placed the chicken in the pot.

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About 10 minutes later, I flipped the chicken over and was very pleased to see how well it had browned.

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When it was brown on both sides, I drained the oil from the cooking pot, added 1 cup of water, and tossed the raw vegetables on top of the now browned chicken.

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I put the lid on, set it to pressure cook for 25 minutes and walked away. It took very little time to come to pressure, probably because I'd done the water test in it before cooking the chicken so it was already hot. When the timer went off 25 minutes later, I let it go through a natural release and about 15 minutes later when it beeped to let me know it was finished, I removed the lid and was greeted by a beautiful sight.

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This was some of the most tender and juicy chicken I've ever eaten and the flavor was fantastic thanks to the brisket rub. I followed the suggestion from the owner's manual to put 1 cup of liquid in with the chicken and I wasn't impressed with the boiled effect that gave the chicken, though the horde ate it up. With my stove top model, I can get by with less than a cup of liquid and the finished product has close to two cups of liquid but thanks to 'anonymous' for letting me know I need to use at least 1 cup of liquid. I think I'll try something other than water - that might not change the boiled effect but it might be good, anyway. And the finished product had more than three cups of liquid with it. No wonder it seemed boiled...ah well, I can't have perfection!

All in all we really enjoyed the chicken and vegetables and after we'd eaten our fill I de-boned what was left and put it in the fridge. It will make great leftovers!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Cabbage Casserole, corn on the cob, and garlic toast

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Tonight's main dish is Cabbage Casserole. It wasn't on the menu but we had a head of cabbage in the fridge and needed to start using it. With it we're having corn on the cob (not from the garden, unfortunately, but fresh nonetheless) and garlic toast.

Here's the original recipe and my modifications to it:

1 1/2 lbs ground beef or turkey (I've used as little as 1/2 a lb)
1 tsp cooking oil (I omit this)
1 onion chopped
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
3/4 cup long grain rice (wild rice is great, too)
1 can tomato soup (I use ketchup mixed with water)
1 can mushroom soup or homemade equivalent
1 soup can water (I use one can of stewed tomatoes instead)
3 cups cabbage, shredded (I just slice it very thin rather than shred it)

Preheat oven to 350. Brown the meat and add onion, salt, pepper and rice. Add soups and water and mix well. Put cabbage in the bottom of casserole dish (lasagna pan works well) and pour meat and soup mixture over cabbage. DO NOT STIR. Bake covered for 1 1/2 hours.

We really like this recipe. It's thrifty, makes a lot, and is easily adaptable to ingredients on hand. I've made it with ground beef, ground turkey, ground chicken, and homemade turkey sausage and all were very good. It's even good with leftover chopped cooked chicken or beef rather than ground meat. Sometimes I make it with cream of celery or cream of chicken soup or just a basic white sauce - it just depends on what I have on hand or what I feel like whipping up. We don't eat tomato soup and I don't buy it just for recipes. If I need some for a recipe I mix 1/4 cup ketchup with a cup of water. It's close enough and works fine in recipes.

This was a great main dish and there's enough left for lunch tomorrow. And that's a good thing!

I have five meals left on the menu and only need to make one tomorrow night before I make my new menu. Here are the choices:

Dutch hats served with vanilla yogurt and fresh strawberries

Biiiig salads made with fresh garden vegetables, cheese and turkey ham

Taco squares, black beans, and tomato salad

Hamburger steak and gravy, green beans, tossed salad, and popovers

Poor man's steak, baked potatoes, and green beans

I think we'll have the poor man's steak with baked potatoes and green beans. The other four dishes will be carried over to the menu for the next two weeks.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

YOYO Night!

Tonight is YOYO (You're On Your Own) night. I didn't cook a thing. We had a few leftovers still in the fridge so everyone just got their own dinner from the fridge and heated it up.

I'll cook again tomorrow night, more than likely.

Well, the garden is still giving up a few goodies here and there. We got a few cucumbers, a couple of Roma tomatoes, a handful of purple hull peas. That's about it. And the rain keeps coming...

Monday, July 9, 2007

Stovetop Stroganoff, spinach, and corn

Dinner was great even if the main dish was made from planned overs! I put the gravy from last night into the wok and added about 1/2 a cup of sour cream, some garlic powder and some black pepper. I mixed it all well then added some of last night's beef roast that had been cut into bite sized chunks. I let it all heat well and had mine over whole wheat noodles. My man person had his over rice from last night. Served with some spinach and corn, it was tasty and frugal!

We still have some of last night's roast and gravy left and if we don't eat it for lunch tomorrow I'll think of something to do with it - more than likely a homemade beef pie.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Slow cooker roast with gravy and vegetables

Beef roast sounded good to me this morning and I just happened to have two of them we got from the local grocery on sale at $2.59 a lb. so I decided to slow cook them both. Part of one was used for tonight's dinner and hopefully I can keep folks from eating the rest of it so I can use it in a day or two. I think I'll make Stovetop Stroganoff with the leftovers. It's so easy and tastes great and is perfect for leftover roast.

I put Cook's Choice Rib Rub and Cook's Choice Gourmet Steak Seasoning on both roasts, browned them in a cast iron skillet then put them in the crock pot with just a little bit of water and some cream of mushroom soup. I also threw in some onion soup mix.

We had some of the very tender and scrumptious roast with brown basmati rice, turnip greens, and broccoli. It was a nice dinner and there's enough roast left for at least one meal, maybe two meals.

I'm almost bored with roast cooked this way, though. I've cooked them this same basic way for over 25 years. How do you cook your beef roast?

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Breakfast for supper

We had a busy day today (life got in the way) so supper was fried eggs, turkey bacon, and toast. It was good but I'm hungry again! Hopefully I'll do some 'serious cooking' tomorrow and will have something good to share. :)

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Post 4th of July malaise and a really quick dinner

We went to Dallas on the third and on the fourth we had a large family get together. There was a lot of food but I got no pictures of it. Why? Because I used my digital camera to get pictures of my niece and her beautiful children. They came in from Iowa and it was wonderful to see them. This was my first time to see her identical twin boys, Logan and Dylan. Unfortunately, I can't always tell which boy is which but here is a picture of my mother, the boys, and their sister Paige.

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Aren't they just too cute??

Dinner tonight was light, easy, and thrifty. I sliced a little turkey smoked sausage and put it in the wok with some barbecue sauce. I heated it through and had mine rolled up in a low carb tortilla. The others will have theirs with baked potatoes and salad. After the amount of food we ate yesterday we need to eat fairly light for a day or two.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Slow cooker chicken dressing, green beans, & butternut squash

We had yet another storm roll through east Texas yesterday and it took out our router so we had no internet access until this evening after we went to town, in another storm, and bought a new router. We're up and running again and tonight's dinner is a repeat of last night's dinner.

Tomorrow afternoon we head to Dallas for my family's 4th of July shindig so I won't post again until Wednesday evening sometime. We'll probably have leftovers that night, too, but we'll see.

So last night's dinner was slow cooker chicken dressing made with leftover chicken and served with green beans and butternut squash. Originally, we were going to have leftover cabbage with it but that got eaten at lunch and I remembered we had a squash from the garden that needed to be used.

I looked at several recipes for slow cooker chicken dressing and although none were really complicated, they seemed to require too many ingredients, ingredients I don't keep around, or those I just didn't want to use in it. So, I just mixed it up as I do for oven baking and added more water so it would be plenty moist for slow cooking.

Here's how I did it:

First I made a batch of cornbread using my former mother in law's old recipe that never fails me.

1 cup flour (whole wheat works fine)
1 1/2 cups corn meal
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cup sweet milk (note that sweet milk is just plain old milk - reconstituted powered or canned work fine)

Mix all ingredients and pour into a lightly greased pan. Bake at 425 til golden brown.

When it was cool enough to handle, I crumbled the cornbread into a large glass bowl. I added some chopped green onion, 2 Tbsp sage, 1 tsp. garlic powder, 1/2 tsp. pepper, 1 Tbsp. Knorr's Chicken Bouillon, 1 egg, and three cups of water. If you have chicken broth, you can use three cups of that and omit the bouillon and water. I buy a 2.2 lb container of Knorr's bouillon at a hispanic market and often use the bouillon mixed with water instead of broth. It's quite a bit saltier than broth so I reduce or eliminate other sodium containing ingredients. I mixed everything well with just-washed hands then added leftover garlic roasted chicken from a few nights ago, about 3/4 cup. I mixed the chicken in well and spooned the gloppy mess into the crock of the slow cooker. I cooked it on HIGH for an hour then turned it to LOW for the rest of the afternoon.

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A few minutes before dinner time, my other half made cream gravy which we put on the chicken dressing. I hadn't had butternut squash in a long time and my other half hadn't ever eaten it. So, I put it in a baking pan and baked it for about 15 minutes at 300 then took it out, added butter and Cook's Choice Gourmet Spice Seasoning to it and put it back in the oven for about 25 more minutes.

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It turned out pretty well and the other half said the taste was good but he didn't like the texture - it was akin to very dry sweet potato. Perhaps it cooked too long. Regardless, he wasn't too impressed.

Do you have a favorite recipe for butternut squash? If so, please share as we have more growing and I hate to waste it...