Best Creamed Corn Ever – Handed-Down and Upgraded Scratch Recipe from My Dad and Grandmother

Holiday dinners are about tradition, traditional recipes and taste memories that carry meaning beyond anything our taste buds can comprehend; here are some from my family’s table:

  • The yeast rolls from “Mema’s” recipe, almost the basis for a religion (you know I’m right).
  • The stuffing/dressing. It.Must.Be.Right. There’s a whole, as-yet unpublished story about the evolution of the dressing in my family, a North-South conflict that threatened my parents’ marriage until it was resolved. I’ll come back to that later, but before Christmas, because I promised a dressing devotee that I’d document it.
  • That green bean casserole that no one should like because it has all those extra-processed ingredients – hello, “French”-friend onions from a can!!!???  Someone in my family always manages to sneak that dish in, and they all look at me to see if I will break into food-snob mode and castigate them. This year, I relaxed my standards and had a few bites at Thanksgiving.  Surprisingly, the world didn’t stop spinning on its axis. Yet.
  • The faux cranberry-something in a can (another anathema to me, but hey, some of my loved ones swear by it, and so does Rick Bragg). To counter this abomination, I actually make cranberry relish from scratch, and I’m usually the only one who eats it. I’m ok with that.
  • Sweet potatoes with marshmallow topping (where o’ where did that come from???)
  • The fresh creamed corn made from a 75-year old recipe.

That last bit, the creamed corn, is the subject of today’s post. This is serious business. My Dad always made my grandmother Mema’s creamed corn (once she was finished making it; she’s been doing Thanksgiving for the angels since 2000). Dad earnestly took Mema’s recipe and made it his own. The documentation of her recipe is below, from a school project my aunt undertook years ago.

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My aunt’s notes below the instructions are a testimonial:

This was the way I had eaten corn all my life until I married.  It was a big let-down to try canned cream corn and I have made it a point to use this recipe often.”

I wanted to get the latest take on this, so in 2015, I asked Dad, via email:

Dad – I found Mema’s recipe for creamed corn (from Aunt Lynda).  It used corn, butter, water, salt and pepper.  I think you said you used cream instead, and white pepper. Is that right?

He was immediately forthcoming, as this was an important issue in the family:

Kim, last year I followed mom’s recipe to the letter and I’m sure you remember it had too much butter.  This year I followed my recipe with just a lot of white pepper, maybe a tablespoon of butter and less than a cup of water.  Much better.

Dad is gone now. I’m having a hard time believing that he will not be bringing creamed corn every year, or ever again. Last year at Thanksgiving (2016), because of an illness, he was out of the hospital but on a stomach feeding tube, and couldn’t eat – or even taste – anything, but he still made his famous creamed corn. Did I mention that this creamed corn is from scratch, starting with fresh corn on the cob and never, ever frozen or canned – don’t even think about it!

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Dad’s last creamed corn, a dish he made by feel and memory because he couldn’t taste it. It went fast.
Dad at the Stove
Dad in 2015 in my kitchen

Dad was an amazing optimist; taking a bit of every dish at our 2016 Thanksgiving table of bounty, he made a to-go container that he froze for a time in the future when he would be able to eat again. That time didn’t come. He left us in June of this year, never having gotten clearance to eat normally again, never thawing and enjoying that belated Thanksgiving feast. I miss him every day. But I feel his presence every day, too.

But here I go digressing again. Let’s do the recipe! This year, I made the creamed corn myself for the first time in advance of our 2017 Thanksgiving celebration. Hoping not to create a family controversy, I made some minor modifications to update the classic recipe while preserving its simple elegance. Since no one noticed, I think I’m in the clear. The major differences were that I used cream instead of water, added a bit more of a savory taste with a small amount of sautéed leeks, and the secret ingredient – ground nutmeg.

Using the vintage corn scraper handed down from my father and grandmother, and with their recipe notes as a guide, I was deep in the heart of family taste memories when I made this dish.

Harvell Family Creamed Corn (serves 8-10)

Ingredients

  • 8 large cobs of fresh corn
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced and chopped leeks
  • 1/4 heavy cream
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. white pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg or about 50 scrapes of fresh nutmeg (preferred)
  • 1 green onion, very thinly sliced

Cooking Instructions

Shuck the corn cobs and wash off any stray silk.  Use a corn scraper or knife to cut all of the kernels from the cobs, collecting them in a large bowl.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, then add the leeks and sauté for 5-7 minutes until they are soft and translucent. Add the corn and “corn milk” and continue to sauté on medium for 7-10 minutes until the mixture is thickened and the corn is soft.  Add the cream, salt and white pepper and cook for about 5 more minutes until the cream has thickened.  Taste and adjust the seasonings, if necessary.

Serve hot and garnish with the sliced green onion.


Note: The creamed corn will keep for several days in the fridge, so you can make it early. It won’t seem like a large amount, but it is very rich, so a small serving is just right.

 

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Start with fresh corn – don’t cut corners on this recipe
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A corn scraper / cutter is the best way to get it off of the cob, but you can also use a knife; that’s my antique corn scraper above.
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Beware – the scraping process makes a big, satisfying mess!
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Sauté the chopped leeks in butter
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The leeks should be soft and translucent before adding the corn
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The corn gets sautéed for 7-10 minutes
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Add the cream and continue to cook until the mixture has thickened
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Nutmeg is the secret ingredient; you can use ground nutmeg, or grind fresh nutmeg using a microplane (it’s much, much better this way!)

The end product is a rich, creamy dish that makes you nostalgic for the old days when life was simpler, people were kinder and you could borrow an egg from your neighbor, even if you never experienced any “old days” in that way.

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Check out my post about the usefulness of a corn scraper here, and check out this other blog for the deep-dive into the mechanics of the use of a scraper. And let me know if you make the Harvell Family Creamed Corn for your holiday table.

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Cranberries, Bacon and Bacon-Jalapeño Jam

Bacon Jam Brussels Sprouts
Almost blackened, the Brussels sprouts are spicy-sweet-tart-crunchy-soft yumminess

Thanksgiving is about tradition, comfort food and family. But it is also fun to shake it up a little, and I just love this dish for the juxtaposition of the traditional (a roasted root vegetable and bacon) and the kicked-up punch from bacon-jalapeño jam with the surprise addition of dried cranberries. The Brussels Sprouts are almost blackened, the jam provides a sweetness and an almost caramelized texture, and the bite of the jalapeño is balanced by the tartness of the cranberries and welcome crunch of the salty bacon.  Yum! It’s almost a spicy Brussels sprout hash, and passed the Grill-Meister test – he who hates vegetables, and especially root vegetables, had two servings! The double-baconizing of these little root vegetables might have something to do with it.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Cranberries, Bacon and Bacon-Jalapeño Jam

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 3 tbsp olive oil (you may need more)
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3/4 cup thinly sliced leeks
  • 2 slices of very thick bacon, cut into 1/4 strips
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup bacon-jalapeño jam (or pepper jelly if you can’t find bacon-jalapeño jam – see below)
  • more salt and freshly ground pepper

Cooking Instructions

Preheat the oven to 450°.  Line a baking sheet with foil, then put the trimmed and halved sprouts on the sheet and toss with the 3 tbsp of olive, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, then roast for 10 minutes. After ten minutes, remove the sprouts and stir them to ensure that they are roasting on all sides, adding a little more olive oil, if necessary. Return to the oven for another 10 minutes, and repeat, roasting for about 5 more minutes until they are mostly browned (it may not take this long).

During the last 10 minutes the sprouts are roasting, sauté the bacon and leeks until the bacon is done to your liking (I like it medium-crisp for this dish). If there is excess bacon fat (more than you feel comfortable with), remove it with a spoon and reserve for another use. Add the bacon-jalapeño jam and cranberries and stir to mix, then add the Brussels sprouts and toss to ensure that it is all mixed together. It will be very sticky and almost caramelized.  Add salt and pepper to taste, serve warm, and get ready for the kudos.


About the Bacon-Jalapeño Jam

Followers of this blog know that it is not commercial and I don’t accept ads or do paid endorsements, but I do share info about products that I use and love. You’ll also have heard of Just Pure Flavors, our local (wonderful) purveyor of fresh, professionally made jams. It’s their bacon-jalapeño jam that inspired this recipe, and I highly recommend it. I found Just Pure Flavors a few years ago at our local farmers market in Tomball, TX (a suburb of Houston to the Northwest), but luckily for you, they also do a booming mail order business. You couldn’t get this jam in time for Thanksgiving, but Christmas is another story. In fact, these jams often end up in Christmas stockings at Glover Gardens.

 

Or Un-“Baconize” and Go Vegetarian

Note to my vegetarian friends – you could make a beautiful and tasty vegetarian version by using pepper jelly (or the Inferno Sauce from Just Pure Flavors) instead of the bacon jam, and substituting olive oil and a mix of dried and reconstituted mushrooms for the bacon. A little bit of ground dried mushrooms would also add a wonderful umami depth.  Let me know if you try it!

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Trimmed and ready
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Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes before roasting
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Stirring after the first 10 minutes
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After the second 10 minutes of roasting – getting close!
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Bacon and leeks will add a depth of flavor
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We usually cook bacon on the gas grill outside
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After the final 5 minutes, the sprouts are nicely roasted, almost blackened, and ready to be tossed with the rest of the goodies
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Add the cranberries and jam to the bacon and leeks before the sprouts
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All together now – doesn’t it look delicious?
Bacon Jam Brussels Sprouts
A nice addition to any holiday table, or just a weeknight dinner

Just Pure Flavors has inspired quite a few recipes and been mentioned here quite a bit i click here to scroll through them if you’re interested.  I love supporting local businesses, and in fact, this post is in support of Small Business Saturday, coming up this weekend.

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Fruit Salad Slaw (not as weird as it sounds)

The Grill-Meister isn’t a big fan of most vegetables, but I’m on a lifelong mission to pull him over to the bright side.  One way I’ve been successful in this mission over the past few years has been with slaws.  I can throw together a quick slaw as a side dish, and he’ll usually eat it without grumbling (much).  But he came to love, love, love slaws after having the Mango Coleslaw at Peli Peli, an upscale Houston-area eatery that serves South African food with a twist. The twist being…”fusion”, including the use of marinades and spices that have Dutch, Asian and Portuguese roots, alongside big American meats and seafood. It works! I could go on and on about Peli Peli, one of my favorite restaurants, but this isn’t a restaurant review post, it’s a recipe post.

One of the best things about Peli Peli is that it moved the Grill-Meister from slaw-tolerant to slaw-loving. Adding those dried mangoes did it.

Of course, now that he is a slaw connoisseur, the Grill-Meister gets a little more involved in the slaw assembly, or would that be slaw-sembly? After tasting my latest, in which I dutifully added dried fruit and a little fresh fruit, too, he frowned, paused thoughtfully, and said, “Pretty good. Would be awesome if you added toasted pecans.”

So I did. And he was right. The recipe is below. I decided to call it Fruit Salad Slaw, because without a few of the ingredients, it would be a lovely fruit salad.

Ingredients

Salad

  • 6 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1 cup chopped dried fruit (see notes below)
  • 1 cup chopped tart green apple, cored and seeded but not peeled
  • 1/4 cup red onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans (click here for instructions)

Dressing

  • 1/4 cup orange juice (fresh if possible)
  • 2 tbsp high quality extra virgin olive oil (plain is ok, but if you have fruit-infused oil, it will be even better)
  • 2 tbsp high-quality balsamic vinegar (white balsamic would be prettier)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard

Cooking Instructions

Combine the slaw ingredients in a medium serving bowl and stir to distribute.  Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl, then pour over the slaw ingredients, tossing to combine well.

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This is a half recipe, for the Grill-Meister and I are empty-nesters; see how vibrant the colors are before the dressing is added?
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The Fruit Salad Slaw was wonderful! But the dark balsamic vinegar gave it a bit of a dingy look

We served the Fruit Salad Slaw alongside Blackened Tilapia, and it was a perfect complement for the crisp, spicy fish. The other side is halved grape tomatoes, halved fresh mozzarella (cherry sized) and green onions, drizzled with balsamic vinegar. I usually serve them as an appetizer.

Notes (Lots of Notes)

You’ll see in the quick pic above of the finished product that the balsamic vinegar – which tasted wonderful – gave the slaw a bit of a dingy look. I’m going to invest in a good-quality white balsamic this Saturday during my farmers market run and make it again.

Also, I had on had some blood orange-infused olive oil, and it really jazzed up the dressing. The Fruit Salad Slaw would still be good without it, but you might want to grate a bit of orange zest on it if you are using plain olive oil.

The dried fruit I used is from HEB (a wonderful grocer in Texas), and it is just “mixed dried fruit”, the mix being apricots, prunes, apples, peaches and pears. You could use any combination, or just one. Interestingly, the Grill-Meister didn’t notice that this mixture doesn’t include dried mangos, like his beloved Peli-Peli slaw.  

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Resources

 

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Emergency Responder for Squash Disaggregation: a Tale of Triumph Over Gourd-Adversity

Emergency Call

I was working on a presentation in my office at 4:45 on a weekday, and I was startled when my arm rang.  (I’m still getting used to my new Apple Watch.)

Rose never calls me during work hours unless it’s a food emergency, so I answered, awkwardly holding my wrist up to my face and hoping no colleagues ventured into my office.  “Hi Rose, what’s up?”

“Kim, I’m wrestling with a spaghetti squash!  How do you get the dang thing open?”

This is serious business.  I forgot that I was talking to my wrist and told her the Spaghetti Squash Disaggregation Truth as I know it. (Rose grants me an elevated foodie status, and I try hard to deserve it.)

Get the biggest, sharpest butcher knife you have and stab it hard straight through the heart, like it’s a mortal enemy, then slice downward.

Rose had already done the stabbing.

“My knife is stuck!”

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“That happens to me, too.  You have two options – get a hammer and use it to tap your knife further into and down the squash beast, or get another knife and go at it from a different part of the squash.”

“Really?  This happens to you, too?  I thought there was some kind of Chef Squash Magic you could tell me about, some kind of kitchen wizardry…”  She tailed off, sounding kind of wistful and disappointed.  I hated to let her down.

“No Rose, really, I’ve been in that same situation, alone in the house, just me and the squash and that helpless feeling when it seems like more than you can handle.  But I was not going to let it win, Rose.  That’s where the ‘thinking it’s the enemy’ part comes in.  GIVE IT ALL YOU’VE GOT!”  (I had forgotten that I was in an office setting and was talking to my wrist loud enough for co-workers to hear me waaaay down the hall – but, as I said, this was serious business and Rose needed my full support.)

We shared a few niceties, I encouraged her once more (“You’ve GOT this!”) and then hung up – or rather, I pushed a little red button on my watch to end the call and went back to my presentation.  I wondered how she’d fare, but knowing Rose, my money was on her.  It takes more than a gourd to defeat a grimly determined woman.

The Rest of the Story:  a Tale of Triumph Over Gourd-Adversity

A few hours later, I was rewarded with the rest of the story, presented on Facebook by a triumphant Rose.

“Sooo….my first sincere attempt at cooking spaghetti squash. Pinterest failed to mention that these squash do not have a soft melon-like consistency….they are hard boulders that taunt you with their inaccessibility. Thank you, (another friend), for your attempt at helping me, but I ended up swallowing my little pride and calling the Oracle, Kim. She suggested the stab and split downward method. After working out my frustrations on unsuspecting produce, the second picture is the final result. It tasted great, and was made more satisfying with the knowledge that I was consuming an earlier arch nemesis (that dang aforementioned boulder squash). I know this is long, and I don’t normally post food, but I’m celebrating a well earned triumph.”

She did it!

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The Wisdom of the Crowd:  A New Technique

Rose’s post generated lots of compliments and comments.  The banter was wonderful.  She added:

“I have to admit, it’s really good. Also, really easy once you break into the agricultural spawn of Satan.”

Said others:

  • “We have it all the time. My chain saw works great for cutting the little Devil.”
  • “This happened to me last week! After getting in a full workout cutting it, I read that you can microwave it for 5 min first to make it easier.”
  • “Poke holes and microwave for 2 minutes! It softens it significantly for you to cut it.”
  • “I see somebody else mentioned it (microwaving)! It really helps. You just can’t touch it for like 20 minutes after LOL!”
  • “I’ve found that hatchets are fun! That is of course if you forgo the above mentioned softening techniques.”

Softening in the microwave?  Great idea!  I had never heard that one and am ready to try it, unless…see Rose’s answer to the suggestion that she try the microwave approach.

“That will depend heavily on how the rest of my day has gone. The technique I employed to get into the squash this time was oddly therapeutic.”

The Recipe

Facebook folks asked for the recipe, which she shared:

Permission to Share

Final note:  I sought permission from Rose the Mighty Squash-Quasher to share this event and the Facebook conversation .

You have the intrepid heart of warrior! Kudos for winning the squash war and bringing the gourd to its culinary knees. The recipe looks super-yum. Can I put this escapade in my blog? Oh please?

She said yes.

Copyright 2017 Glover Gardens Cookbook

Call This Baby (Carrot) Ugly

Epicurious sends a message every day, just for me (and their umpteen zillion other subscribers).  I usually don’t have time to read it right away (or ever, sometimes), but today’s caught my eye.  It listed their top ten stories of 2016, and as a food blogger, I was interested to see what generated the most interest.  They introduced the list:

Cooking made us happier in 2016 (there’s proof!), and so did these stories, which are our ten most loved, clicked-on, and shared stories of the year.

They’re all interesting, and I’ve provided the link to the online version at the end of this post.  But the one that stood out was #6 on the list, “The Case Against Baby Carrots”  by Adina Steinman.

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Here’s the scoop: baby carrots aren’t babies at all!!!  They are full-grown carrots masquerading as cute, younger, fake versions of themselves after some vegetable-style cosmetic surgery.

Sez the story, which is subtitled “Why Baby Carrots are Evil”:

Baby carrots are in fact full-grown carrots, whittled down into earplug-shaped cylinders. They aren’t sweeter, fresher, or younger than the bunches of carrots they’re sold alongside. In fact, they’re often made from older carrots, hence the starchy, not-very-sweet flavor you get from some bags.

It’s an outrage, and as the writer says, these carrots are pure evil.  I will never, ever buy these manually-midgeted carrots again.  I have no idea why I didn’t realize they were a sham, but from today forward, I am committed to peeling the authentic full-grown versions.

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Beautiful, authentic, full-grown and unmodified carrots – the real deal

In honor of the noble, full-sized root vegetable, here is a picture and a recipe that a friend of mine brought to a wine party, made with beautiful heirloom carrots.  They are tossed with sumac and mint, topped with toasted pistachios and served on a bed of marvelous whipped feta.  They were delicious!

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My friend’s heirloom carrots on their bed of feta, topped with pistachio goodness

Here’s how it looks in the magazine where he found the recipe.

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Photo from Shape.com by Sang An

New year’s resolution: no more baby carrots!!!

Links:

 

Copyright 2016, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Cooking with Friends: A Root Vegetable Christmas Memory

winespectatorratings-mar13-2011Some of the most alluring recipes I’ve come across in my years of cooking have been published in Wine Spectator.  They are always perfectly paired with wine, described delectably and photographed beautifully, and I’ve been known to keep back issues for years, planning to make that picture-perfect meal a reality in my kitchen.  Someday.

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Photo from Wine Spectator online

The December 23, 2002 issue had just such a meal:  A Holiday Menu from Wine Country.  Oh my, it looked good:  White Bean Soup with Fried Sage, Pan-Roasted Duck with Root Vegetable Hash and Sweet Potato Puree…whee!   I held onto that issue of Wine Spectator for a couple of years, revisiting the recipe and ingredients a bit wistfully from time to time while realizing that my everyday life with a small child didn’t really support making this super-sophisticated meal.  But as they say, good things come to those who wait.  I finally broke out that recipe for a very small girls’ night at my house during the holidays a few years later.  It was just two of my closest friends and me, ready to cook, laugh, tell stories and maybe even cry a little (if necessary) in the little kitchen of my 1920s wood-frame cottage.  Two of us were single moms at the time, and the third a “restaurant widow”: her husband was the managing partner at a very popular restaurant, and was never home in the evenings.  All three of us were without children that night, for various reasons.  “Like sailors on leave,” one of them said.

The menu from the magazine, billed as an easy holiday meal to make at home, was provided by the executive chef of Napa Valley’s Auberge du Soleil, Richard Reddington, who was described as wine country’s “hottest young chef”.

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“Richard Reddington today is known as  ‘the most-loved bad boy in Napa Valley’ by the locals who adore him”, says Haute Living magazine.  Reddington owns and runs Redd, a high-end spot and Redd Wood, an Italian-style casual eatery.  They are on my list for the next Napa Valley trip.

The last thing I want to do on a holiday is kill myself in the kitchen,” Reddington says. “I want to be done and I want the kitchen to be clean and I want to sit down with my guests for an hour and drink a glass of sparkling wine.”

Gentle readers, you should know that there are definitely different definitions of “easy”.  Easy, it was not.  Tasty, it was.  Might as well drink that sparkling wine while you’re making the dinner, because it will be a while before you get to the finish line.

In my little kitchen with my two girl-buddies, there was a frenzy of chopping and chatter, and it took us a couple of hours to get the meal made.  We had a marvelous time, uncovering the meaning of life and praising the fiber of root vegetables as we sautéed each of them individually before mixing them (they don’t cook at the same rate and might get mushy if crammed together in a pan). We also praised ourselves for being smart and sophisticated enough to appreciate root vegetables – no bourgeoisie, we!  We exclaimed over the richness of the pureed sweet potatoes as we laid crispy-skinned pan-fried duck on them and began the devouring.

We drank our wine and told our stories with the desperate urgency of moms who only have a night off a couple of times per year – and of course the kids took center stage in all of those stories.

We knew were were the luckiest gals in the world that December evening, with our wine, our stories, and our fiber-laden root vegetables.  I cherish the memories of that night, with that meal, and those ladies.  One of them has left us and is now cooking with the angels, and I imagine her in heaven savoring the super-crispy duck skin with the rich, smooth pureed sweet potato and crunchy, root vegetable hash without worrying about the calories.  If you’re interested, you can read more about her here, but grab a cup of coffee first, ’cause it’s a long one.

Gather some friends and try these recipes one day when you have time.  They won’t be quick and easy, but you won’t be sorry. Here it is again:  A Holiday Menu from Wine Country.

Copyright 2016, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Simple Autumn Side: Baked Acorn Squash

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It’s a beautiful Saturday morning here in Southeast Texas, and we’re headed out to the Farmers’ Market to see what bounty it holds for us.  A recent trek yielded acorn squash, which resulted in a marvelous side dish for roast chicken.

So delicious, even the vegetable-loathing Grill-Meister will eat it!

How’s that for a tag line?  The squash has an almost creamy texture, and the touch of seasoning and brown sugar gives it a lovely fall color. Even vegetable-haters can tolerate it! And in addition to being just plain good, this dish is EASY. Remember that old phrase, “set it and forget it”? Well, even if you don’t, it will make sense to you when you make this acorn squash. It’s a perfect side for roasted meats, and also works well for a luncheon dish alongside a soup, a salad, or a sandwich.  You could pair it with the Lentil Soup for a very filling vegetarian meal, or with a Panini for a quick weeknight family supper.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 1 medium acorn squash
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. light brown sugar
  • Old Bay or your favorite all-purpose seasoning mix (my Zippy Southwest is also very good, if you want a bit of a kick)

Cooking Instructions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil.  Cut the squash in half, crosswise. Scoop out and discard the seeds. Slice each side of the squash in half again.
Set squash quarters on prepared sheet, then drizzle with the olive oil. Sprinkle with seasoning and brown sugar.

Bake until squash is easily pierced about 30 minutes. Serve warm, adding salt and pepper if desired.

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The finished product is a hearty side dish

Copyright 2016, Glover Gardens Cookbook.