Tag Archives: Roasted Butternut Squash

5 Tips on Being a Helpful House Guest for New Parents + Curried Roasted Butternut Squash Soup w/Coconut Milk

25 Nov
I heart Chicago.

I heart Chicago.

I took a couple of days off. My best friend had a baby several weeks ago and dang it, I wanted to meet her. It’s hard taking time off. I work more than full time. I’ve got my little critter plus the 150 students I attempt to take care of at work and on top of that, Thanksgiving is around the corner and we’re hosting again this year.  I was supposed to book this trip in December but then December’s proposed trip date turned into a proposed January trip date and it was beginning to feel like I would never really get there.  And yet, something happened while sitting in yet another meeting at work and I thought to myself, “I gotta get out of here”. And so, in less dramatic fashion than I’m making it seem, I booked my ticket and arrived in Chicago this past Wednesday night (Sidebar: Dressing for a November trip that departs from Miami but arrives in Chicago is really an art form I’ve come very close to mastering).

I thought maybe I would have forgotten what is was like to travel solo; it had been so long since I’d traveled without baby and husband in tow. I spent over a decade traveling all over the world by myself but since getting married, the traveling has become a partner-based endeavor. I wondered if I’d remember what it was like to not worry about things like when I’d be able to change Siona’s diaper next or if we factored enough time into our schedule to account for the ever-so-fun security line with a toddler. Turns out, I never lost my travel legs and to be perfectly honest, it felt great to fly alone. Folks, I don’t mean to alarm you but I read an ENTIRE magazine— cover to cover! I mean I savored every second of my uninterrupted magazine-reading and even read the silly ads in the back (Yes, it was an US Weekly and no, it turns out that I do not need a tank top that reads, “Team Peeta”).  Hell, i watched a whole movie on my iPad without interruption. I was not going to let this alone time go wasted. ‘Twas glorious.

My favorite cozy corner in Annie's place.

Cozy, comfort.

Hot coffee on a cold day . . . I think I remember what that was like.

Hot coffee on a cold day . . . I think I remember what that was like.

Glazed and Infused: All the hype was pretty much worth it.

Glazed and Infused: All the hype was pretty much worth it.

Daniel and his baby Judah.

Daniel and his baby Judah.

But I digress. This is a “how to” post. But I’m not writing it because I think I know it all. Oh no my friends. I’m writing this because my dear friend, Annie, knows it all. The four days I was in Chicago were spent repaying a favor. I needed to take care of my girl (and new mom), Jackie and her baby girl, Violet, the way she took care of me when Siona was born.  I was supposed to do this last year when Annie had her baby boy, Judah, since she had spent 5 days with Siona and me in all my post-partum glory.  But sadly, I got the flu and had to cancel my trip.  So, one year later, in Annie’s honor and with her by my side, I finally landed in Chicago to take care of Jackie and Violet.

When you’re a regular guest, it’s safe to say that there’s a level of comfort you look forward to or might even expect from your host/hostess (or maybe this is just me being SUPER Southern). But when you’re the houseguest of new parents, it’s your job and, in my opinion, your obligation to not just “pitch in” but to be altogether expendable to new parents.  And no one, I mean,  no one,  has mastered this art of being the perfect new parent houseguest than my girl, Annie.   She’s helpful in ways that might border on Saint-like status. So, the following list has been compiled from watching her at work in all her glory. For if you are of an age where your friends aren’t quite having babies yet, I promise you, one day they just might and you will need to be there for them as, Gd willing, they will be there for you. Or, you might find these tips helpful if you’re possibly in a stage in life like me where roughly 65% of your Facebook feed is purely pictures of your friends’ kids (the other 35% being BuzzFeed round-ups and cat memes). Or maybe, just maybe, you just had a baby and your in-laws are coming in for a stay and you want to be all, “Hey, Mom-in-law, isn’t this post about how to be a good houseguest to new parents funny? You should read it . . . carefully.”

1.  Take Care of the Animal – Your friends, new mom and dad, are exhausted.  They are knee-deep in care-giving for their tiny new human and sometimes, their first-born, the dog/cat/hamster/fish/etc., gets overlooked.  Pets aren’t overlooked because there’s a lack of love.  Pets in the homes of brand new parents are overlooked because new parents are experiencing an exhaustion that can’t be topped. They’re barely taking care of themselves, much less their beloved pet.  So, if there’s a pet in the house, clean the cage/litter box/tank or take it for a walk.  Fluffy will be very grateful.

2.  Cook –  Make sure what you cook is healthy and will last at least a week or can be frozen. I spent all day on Thursday cooking for Jackie and her new family.  She requested homemade pasta sauce so, obviously, I complied.  I also made curried roasted butternut squash soup with coconut milk (recipe below) and mini zucchini muffins and homemade granola as Jackie expressed concern of her lack of eating in the morning (Jake and Jackie are foodies.  They went to El Buli for their honeymoon.  Cooking for them is very intimidating).

3. Don’t Leave the House Empty-Handed – Taking out the trash/recycling is obnoxious when you don’t have a new baby to take care of.  Plus, for some reason trash and recycling seems to pile up quicker when you’ve just had a baby then in your previous life.  So, after your visit of cleaning and cooking, make sure you don’t leave empty-handed and offer to take out the trash on your way out.

4. Address the Thank You Notes – My girl, Annie, actually offered to write Jackie’s Thank You notes.  I could see the temptation in Jackie’s eyes but ultimately, she wrote her own while the baby was napping.  However, the real time-suckage of Thank You notes is the addressing part.  If baby is sleeping or in someone else’s arms, ask for that address list and start writing.  You’ll rescue new mama from trying to find the time for addressing a sea of envelopes but also the inevitable guilt of being late on her notes (or that’s just us Jewish mama’s having to battle our guilt-complexes yet again).

5. Hold the Baby – Hold that baby for as long as your arms can stand it and give mama an opportunity to take a bath, take a nap or whatever else she’s been itching to get done.  Heck, even if it’s 15 minutes of Pinterest surfing, give her that opportunity.  It’s not for you to judge how she spends her time.  It’s for you to offer and allow her that sacred thing called, “free time”.

Annie, she can take care of people AND decorate.

The woman knows how to decorate.

Homemade tomato sauce on some crusty bread and some creamy cheese.

Homemade tomato sauce on some crusty bread and some creamy cheese.

The murals in Chicago

The murals in Chicago

Me and our sweet Violet.

Me and our sweet Violet.

Curried Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Coconut Milk:

Ingredients:
1 whole butternut squash – halved & peeled
Coconut oil
1 small onion – diced
2 cloves of garlic – diced
2 cups of veggie broth or water
Curry powder
Sea salt
Cayenne pepper
1 can coconut milk
1 bunch chopped fresh cilantro

Method:
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. After peeling and cutting in half length-wise, slather the inside of your squash with just enough coconut oil that is evenly covered but not “oily”. Place your halved and peeled squash oil side down on your baking sheet and roast for 40 – 45 minutes or until soft. Once it’s finished, let cool for about 10 minutes or so. Once cooled, chop your squash into small-ish pieces and set aside.

During the cooling phase, sauté your diced onion in a large stock pot using about 3 tbsp of coconut oil. Sauté for one minute and add garlic. Sauté for another 3 minutes or so or until onions are translucent. Add your seasoning – I go heavy on seasoning this so roughly 2 tbsp of curry or so. Then add a dash of the cayenne and salt. Stir all together and let sauté for another minute. Add the squash and stir. Add the stock or water and stir. Bring mixture to a boil, cover and reduce heat to simmer. Let simmer for about 10 -15 minutes, adding more stock or water along the way just so it stays since and moist but not overly “soupy”. After about 15 minute, remove from heat and, using a hand immersion blender, blend all ingredients until smooth. Add the coconut milk and stir. Season to your tastes. Top with fresh cilantro and enjoy.

Roasted Butternut Squash + Coconut Milk Soup

Roasted Butternut Squash + Coconut Milk Soup

No Fear: Spinach Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash and Maple Dijon Vinaigrette

10 Nov

squash 3

I do a lot of things even though I’m scared of them. I ride airplanes, even though I’m terrified of flying. I write this food blog even though I’m terrified of being judged negatively by my food. I got married even though I was terrified of marriage. I had a baby even though I was terrified of being tired all the time. On the other hand, I rarely drink because I have a fear of being out of control. I don’t break the rules because I have a fear of getting in trouble. But how much do we let fear manage what we do or don’t do?

So this thing happened about 6 weeks ago and it was/is a big thing. I’ve been keeping it to myself for a while but when the tech guy at school, who I’m not sure even knows my daughter’s name, came up to me to confirm the rumor of this big thing that happened 6 weeks ago, I think it’s safe to say that the ‘jig is up’. Six weeks ago, a professional opportunity dropped into my lap and I couldn’t ignore it. Try as I might, I just couldn’t ignore it. I wasn’t looking for a job. I have a job. I have a job I like that I think I’m pretty good at. I get to work with people I generally really like; who make me laugh out loud on a daily basis. But then I got a call offering me a huge professional opportunity, which would have been a no-brainer except for this one very big hiccup—the job is in LA. If you’ve been reading this blog at all, you’ll know my family and I live in Miami. We are here because my husband is in the middle of getting his PhD in Marine Biology from the University of Miami. We’ve been here almost 3 years. I like it enough. We’ve always said we didn’t want this to be our permanent place. Miami is nice and all but it’s not where we want to raise our children. Before this call, the only guarantee we had once my husband finished his PhD is that there is no guarantee. In the back of our minds, we always thought that we would go anywhere he got a post-doc or a job; be it Australia, Israel Hawaii or North Carolina. But we’re nearly 3 years into a 4.5 year PhD so we didn’t REALLY think about it but then this thing landed in my lap and then we were forced to think about it.

The job has all the things a person looks for in a job–prestigious school, giant promotion, room for growth, resources and is located in sunny LA. But there’s just this one thing. My husband can’t leave his PhD program. So the question came to be: How much are we willing to sacrifice for a job? How much are we willing to sacrifice for our family’s future? If I said ‘yes’, that meant that I would be in LA with Siona for a year without my partner; my love. If I said ‘no’, that meant that I was passing up a major opportunity for myself and also, a guaranteed future for my family. How does a person make that kind of decision?

First, you take a trip to LA. Who wouldn’t want to say ‘yes’ after an all-expense paid 4 days in Beverly Hills? Then you talk . . . and you talk . . . and you talk. Then you come to realize that the only reason you and your husband can come up with for NOT taking this opportunity is fear and damn it, I will not miss out on this opportunity of a lifetime because of fear. I refuse to live like that.

What will Shabbatot (shabbats) be like without my best friend for roughly a year? What will it be like in a new city and a new job without my partner? How will I be a ‘single’ parent for roughly a year? How will I do it? I’ve been asked these questions MULTIPLE times by MULTIPLE people and I don’t have any answer except, “It will be hard. It will be so. very. hard. But then, Gd willing, it won’t be. But in the meantime, I will need your support. I will need everything you’re willing to give.” I am terrified to start this new chapter without my partner standing beside me but the really incredible good news is that we will still be together, we just won’t be together all the time. I will need to remind myself of this on a constant basis.

So, in roughly 8 months time, at the end of June, we will pack up our Miami life, keep some of it here and ship some of it to LA. Then, we will load ourselves into an RV and drive across the country to LA (yes, we are driving cross-country to LA in an RV. Dreams really do come true. Those will be some fun posts, I hope.) because what the hell are we doing with this life if we’re not going to live it up, right?

Morning rituals with Dada.

Morning rituals with Dada.

Siona and JFK on our trip to LA (I did not mean for that to rhyme).

Siona and JFK on our trip to LA (I did not mean for that to rhyme).

So, with all that being said, life is going to get interesting and a bit tough around this time next year. I probably won’t have the time to make mini grain-free pies with mixed berries or Sriracha cheddar sauce but I will have time to make salads. I will probably live on salads. Why make life harder than it needs to be, right? Back in my single days, I lived on salads so I might need to bring out the old repertoire. But, I have to admit, the salads of my 20s were pretty boring and certainly would NEVER have contained roasted butternut squash or anything having to do with fruit. I also NEVER made my own salad dressings but now that I’m becoming more and more comfortable with my cooking skills, a salad dressing is a piece of cake.

Imperfect yet perfect

Imperfect yet perfect

After the roast.

After the roast.

Getting everyone on board.

Getting everyone on board.

Up close and personal

Up close and personal

Reading for a healthy feast.

Reading for a healthy feast.

Spinach Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash and Maple Dijon Vinaigrette

Salad Ingredients:

1 bunch of fresh spinach
1 medium butternut squash, roasted and cubbed
1/2 small purple onion, diced small
1/2 honey crisp apple, diced small
1/2 cup white cheddar cheese, shredded
Walnuts

Maple Dijon Vinaigrette:

1/4 balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
3 Tbsp pure maple syrup
1/4 olive oil
Sea salt
Pepper

Roasted Squash How To:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. While oven is heating, cut butternut squash in half. Use a peeler to peel the skin from the squash. Scoop out innards of squash and throw away (or save seeds to roast later). Drizzle olive oil or coconut oil onto the inside flesh of the squash. Place squash flesh side down onto the baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes (give or take). You’ll know it’s done when you stick a fork into the flesh and it meets no resistance (see picture above for post-roast squash). Let squash cool while you make the vinaigrette.

Maple Dijon Vinaigrette How-To:

Place maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, mustard and dashes of the sea salt and pepper into a small bowl and whisk until combined. Slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl while whisking so that all ingredients combine. Taste and add additional seasoning to suit your taste buds.

Salad:

Once roasted squash is cool, cut into 1 inch thick horizontal strips leaving the ends for using in a soup or sauce for later. Cut the strips into cubes. Assemble all ingredients except walnuts into a bowl. Drizzle with vinaigrette and crumble walnuts on top before serving.

Enjoy!

*PS – You’ll noticed the pictures don’t include the purple onions. In my Sunday Funday mom-haze, I completely forgot to put them on the salad until AFTER I took the pictures. I took the hit.

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