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the delicate delicata. the namesake for delicata sunshine. oh the delightful, the smooth, the fantastically lovely delicata squash–that pale, muted orange encased in golden sunshine, mossy green stripes dripping down the happy yellow.

finally, it’s in my autumn kitchen! on wednesday, i headed to the seed wayne farmer’s market at wayne state university on a quest for a bushel of tomatoes to complete the winter stockpile of canned rubies. the anxiety that pulsed through my body when i learned there were no bushels of tomatoes at the market at 3:30pm wednesday (a friend found me some later that day) began to dissipate when i saw the delicatas for sale at the grown in detroit booth. i promptly bought three. the last three. and with great glee i went home to make myself a feast.

these beauties are winter sqaushes, but i think of them more as an autumn squash… more rich and creamy than summer squash and zucchini, like a butternut. but, long and narrow and with edible skin, they don’t last as long as the harder winter squashes.

i first learned of these when last fall, when i started my work at earthworks urban farm. on my first visit to see my parents after moving to detroit, i

brought them a delicata with excited eagerness. it really doesn’t take a lot to get me excited. especially when we’re talking about food.

the delicata love spreads with a contagious spirit. i don’t think i have ever been so pleased as i was when, labor day 2009, after buying some at the traverse city farmer’s market, my dad, grinning, exclaimed that the squash was the highlight of our fresh and local feast. nothing beats a father’s love for great squash.

roasted delicata

delicata squash
extra virgin olive oil
honey or sugar (optional)
thyme (sprigs look prettier, i just don’t have any in my pantry)

1. preheat the oven to 425º.

2. cut the delicata in half. scoop out the seeds. (add those to your compost pile!) quarter the squash.

3. lightly brush with olive oil and a little honey (if you use it), sprinkle lightly with salt and fresh ground pepper, sugar (if you decide to use it) and thyme. they are a sweet squash on their own, the sugar/honey is really not necessary, but can add a layer to the sweetness. the honey especially, adding its own glorious tones of flavor.

4. roast in oven for 30 minutes, until it is soft when prickly with a fork. sometimes i leave it in longer, letting the edges get crispy even.

serve! enjoy! my fall diet is not complete without my smooth, sweet, mellow delicata sunshine.


for me, baking most definitely acts as the “gwen anti-stress-o-meter”. with some solid music going, the warmth of the preheating oven, and the methodic process of measuring, whisking, folding, blending, tasting, tweaking, experimenting grants me space from my clogged, often overwhelmed brain. i mean, what could possibly be better than dancing around the kitchen and ending up with some tasty, wholesome treats!?

i think my love for baking really started when i was a shrieking child, and did i ever shriek. my mom, amazing pie baker and chef extraordinaire, she let me help out in the kitchen… well i don’t know how much i really helped, but she let me believe i was helping. in order to get the “right look” as a chef, i required an apron– but not just any apron– it needed the right poof of flour, as did my face and hair, to demonstrate my dedication, seriousness, and skill in the craft. my idea of the perfect chef is not ubber clean, efficient, and high brow. no, quite the opposite. i wanted to be a happy slave to my kitchen. i needed the flour all over the place to be legit. oh the joy of the mess….

there is no question that i am…eh…perfectionistic. and by that i mean somewhat obsessive compulsive and easy to stress/spaz out. i don’t think i ever really admitted this to myself until recently, though i now realize the signs have always been there. i think the icing on the cake (no pun intended) was when one of my favorite professors in college told me to get a tattoo of what he labeled the “tension cake”. he scribbled this wobbly, squiggly looking circle with some candles coming out the top, instructing me to strategically place the tattoo for easy access and referencing. “put your tension in the cake, gwen,” he said. or, “how’s the cake coming? is it in the oven yet?”

clearly, baking was then prescribed as my anti-stressor. how lucky is my tummy for that!

i really like to improvise with baking, which i know is usually a no-no. especially with quick breads, i throw things in and experiment most of the time. these latest gems were the lovechild of the current freezer mix: bananas and blueberries… and who doesn’t like just a touch of chocolate chip in a muffin? these were a birthday treat to my friends janelle and heather whose birthdays i missed by a long shot… and for my lovely roomies at our casa, la grande.

banana blueberry chocolate chip muffins
makes 12

2 c whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
3/4 c brown sugar
1/3 c yogurt (lowfat)
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 ripe bananas (mine came from the freezer)
1/3 c bluberries (you could definitely use more)
1/3 c chocolate chips (you could also use more!)

1. preheat oven to 350°. butter or cooking spray a 12 muffin pan, slide inserts in to catch the goods!
2. combine dry ingredients, spooning the flour into the cup, and whisk together.
3. in a separate bowl, beat eggs till pale yellow. beat in brown sugar, then yogurt and vanilla, till smooth. add bananas and mix until well incorporated. then add blueberries and stir in.
4. add chocolate chips to flour mix, it will keep them from sinking to bottom of muffins.
5. slowly add dry ingredients to wet, stir as little as you can, i try in twenty strokes or so. make sure everything is incorporated, though.
6. use a 1/3 measuring cup and scoop batter into the little cups.
7. bake for 15 minutes, then rotate the pan to ensure even cooking. then bake another 10-15 until a toothpick, knife, skewer, poker of your choice comes out clean. using the whole wheat makes these muffins pretty dark.
8. let them rest for 5ish minutes in the pan, then transfer to a cooling rack or plate to
complete their cooling, or eat warm… MMM!!

reflecting on yesterday’s activities, the only thing that came to mind was a song from moulin rouge- the can can can can can can can! crazy how one song can remind you of a soundtrack which reminds you of friends and experiences and memories about life as it once was. kind of like food, music definitely triggers the nostalgia flow in me.
yesterday was tomato canning day no. 2.
while i’ve canned once this season, with dear friends janelle and heather, i have been having these dreams lately. dreams about not getting enough tomatoes canned for winter, nightmares really… life has been very hectic between work and, well, life and this creeping dread kept washing over me that fall and frost would be here and i would have no tomatoes in my pantry. after last year’s canning experience (i learned from friend and master canner molly mccullagh), and the cheery, ruby jars of summer for winter soups and sauces and stews, i’ve literally lost sleep over the thought of a winter tomato can-less. YIKES!
so i took an hour off work to by a 1/2 bushel from the wayne state farmer’s market. i dropped the ripe globes off at my house, transferring them to trays to give them the breathing room their plastic bag forbid. and, after a good eleven hour day, i was greeted by these glorious orbs, ready for their hot-water bath, a good… eh… exfoliation we’ll call it, and a new home.
currently, i am camera-less, and so all these pictures come from “photo booth” on my computer (hence the weird flash/reflection on the jars), so i have no pictures of the toms pre-process.
i spent the rest of my evening skinning, stuffing, cleaning, smushing, wiping, boiling, loving, singing & dancing, and praying… it took a good 3 hours. the result? 13 b-e-a-utiful jars of red delight. the recipe i used follows, taken from janet chadwick’s the busy person’s guide to preserving food.

canning raw-packed whole tomatoes
lids (new, so they seal)
rings (hold the lids until the goods are sealed)
a canning pot (with basket that holds the jars of delish off of the bottom of the pot, so that steam and heat and hot water warms the jars, not the burner itself)
bowl with ice water
a small pot with water slightly simmering, but not boiling (for lids, if water is boiling, the seal may not set)
lemon juice (citric acid)
1. wash the jars and lids and rings in hot, soapy h2o. put jars in a low-temperature oven, for sterilization and so that the glass does not crack upon transfer to water bath.
2. begin heating water in a small pot (for lids and rings) and boiling water bath canner. wash tomatoes. i cut an X at the bottom for easier peeling. drop tomatoes into boiling water, a few at a time. scald for 30 seconds, transfer to cold water in bowl with a slotted spoon. from here, lift tomatoes and peel and core.
3. add citric acid (1/4 teaspoon per pint, 1/2 teaspoon per quart) or lemon juice (1 T per pint, 2 T per quart) to each hot jar. pack tomatoes in tightly, leaving 1/2 in head space. add boiling water or leftover tomato juice in necessary to leave 1/2 in head space (i use juice from the tomatoes). add salt (1/2 teaspoon per pint, 1 teaspoon per quart– i did not do this), if desired.
4. wipe lip of jars clean, place on lid and ring, and once all are ready (my canning pot takes 7 jars), load canner and process, 40 min for pints, 45 for quarts.
5. let jars cool 24 hours, check to make sure sealed (take off ring, flip upside down, make sure the lid doesn’t pop out), label and store
6. feel the lovely sweep of relief when you realize you have fresh, (hopefully) local tomatoes for your dining pleasure happily preserved in little jars!

i never thought that blueberries would act as the ultimate prompt for starting a blog.

how i love to read food blogs. i roam the wild streets of the internet food blogs, wandering from one blogger’s favorite sites to the next. it has become somewhat of an addiction, or self-medication to the stress of work and life and my unknowing of what comes next. while i drown myself in the recipes, the stories, the flavors of these oh-so-well-loved blogs, i have never once considered myself capable of participating. and i still seriously doubt what my blog will contribute to the the ever-expanding sphere of blogs, the great black hole continuing to suck more and more time and real, physical interaction out of our culture and onto the internet…

blueberries– those western michigan blueberries– they did the trick.

tara, my roommate, she brought home the most blueberries i have seen in one place (other than a store or on a bush) in a loonnggg time. actually ever.

how excited i am to create with these blueberries! their plump, round little bodies– their rich, royal purply hue, their sweet and tangy taste…

what i am thinking for these indigo globes of delight:
-freezing for future fun and fresh summer flavor
-some blueberry bread or cake or muffins
-blueberry sauce for canning

any other ideas?