Retro Squash {Truffles}

First off, these really aren’t truffles. Sorry to disappoint, but I just didn’t want the name of my post to be “Squash Balls”.

Umm… doesn’t exactly inspire cozy, happy, holiday thoughts. So, because these little treats are round and have somewhat of a crispy, sweet coating… truffles they became.

I found the inspiration for this recipe in a April issue of Family Circle from 1955 (one of my grandmother’s magazines). “Crispy Sweet-Potato Balls” – They are little funky-retro, and a lot fun to eat.

Unlike Mrs. Eisenhower’s Apple Pie, I did make some modifications to this recipe.

With the biggest eating day of the year looming close, I wanted to be sure I could pound some stuffing, mashed potatoes and Black-Friday-Power-Shopping-Frappuccinos without overwhelming guilt.

Don’t worry. The “yummier” PG-13 version is below also… Worth a shot if butter and zweiback crumbs are your thing. I’ll let you choose for yourself ; )

Retro Squash Truffles

Makes about 10 larger-than-golf-ball-sized truffles

Squash Mixture:

  • 2 Cups of roasted squash (I used a Kabocha, but Butternut or Sweet Dumpling would work well also, or even Sweet Potatoes like the original recipe suggests.)
  • 1 T Earth Balance (or butter), melted
  • 1 t Brown sugar (May need to vary based on the sweetness of your squash)
  • 1/2 t lemon juice
  • Dash of Nutmeg and Pepper (to taste)

Coating Mixture:

  • 2/3 Cups of Panko Breadcrumbs (graham crackers or a few crushed pecans would be great additions, too)
  • 2 t Earth Balance (or butter), melted
  • 1/8 t Cinnamon and Nutmeg and Salt

Directions:

  • Mash squash in a large bowl; add remaining squash-mixture ingredients; beat until fluffy; form into balls truffles.
  • Combine coating-mixture ingredients in a pie-plate; roll truffles in the mixture until coated well, place in a shallow baking pan.
  • Bake in slow oven (325) for about 35 minutes, or until truffles are heated-through and coating is crisp.

Garnish these little spheres of sweet-fluffy-mashed-potato-like goodness with a drizzle of real maple syrup, or….

…yep, I went there.

Add half of a marshmallow for the last five minutes of baking time for a gooey treat. Perfect nestled next to a turkey, and fun to make (and eat) with kids.

That is, unless you get TOO into the retro thing, and make the whole family dress alike…

Just. Don’t. Do it. They won’t appreciate that when they’re older. And, therapy is expensive.

Enjoy!

For all of you adventurers out there, here is the original recipe, as printed:

Crispy Sweet-Potato Balls

Makes 8 large Potato Balls

Potato Mixture

  • 2 Cans (1lb, 2oz each) of vacuum packed sweet potatoes
  • 4 T (1/2 Stick) of melted butter or margarine
  • 2 T Brown Sugar
  • 1t Salt
  • 1/4 t Nutmeg
  • 1/8 t Pepper
  • 1 t Lemon juice

Coating Mixture

  • 3/4 Cup coarse zwieback crumbs (About 6 slices)
  • 2 T Brown Sugar
  • 2T Melted Butter or Margarine
  • 1/8 t Cinnamon, Nutmeg and Salt

Directions: Same as above, but bake for 40 minutes.

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Thought {full}

Tis the season to be thankful (and/or eat yourself into a food coma). At the FeshlyMinted household, we’ve been talking a lot about turkey, ‘taters, another important “T” word: Thoughtfulness.

In order to be the type of person that someone is thankful for, you’ve got to be thoughtful first. A spouse, a parent, a grandparent, a great boss… It’s those pleasant little moments of grace, or fun, or extravagance, or simplicity that make us so, so glad that they are in our lives.

The Husband has some great insight into how thoughtfulness works in a husband-wife relationship, and (without prompting / nagging / standing in front of the TV and begging / asking in a variety of accents to make him laugh) he jotted down a few ideas to share. Enjoy:

Thought {full}

I’ve realized that, unless I am intentional about going against my nature, every day I go through life zoned-in on me. What can I accomplish, what fires can I put out, and what anxieties and to-do lists will occupy my mind as I let little problems grow into big ones. Naturally, I drift into a life that is me-centered. I put my career first, my hobbies first, my t.v. shows first… Basically, I submit to my own desires and “needs”, and expect others to as well.

I bet you’ve guessed that this lifestyle doesn’t work so well with my wife… or in any relationship, really.

So, I thought I’d put some advice together that has helped me improve in the area of thoughtfulness – Not exactly an attribute that comes naturally, but one that means a lot in our home. Like, get you out of the doghouse, get you a nice dinner, get you a delighted, happy spouse to come home to, type of ‘a lot’…

For the gents out there:

Let me start this out by stating the obvious: Ladies are kind of confusing and unpredictable.

Yet, we like them (love them, adore them, share our lives with them) and they give us the support we need to allow us to be who we are, and who we are supposed to become. So, in their honor, here is some advice:

  •  Thoughtfulness isn’t about doing what’s easy. It’s about doing something out of the ordinary (aka – a surprise). If finances are tight, surprise the lady by spending the money on a dinner and a movie. If finances aren’t tight, don’t just buy a gift because it’s easy and quick, but instead, make something…write a letter…draw a funny picture and put it by the coffee pot. It’s all about extra effort. They’ll notice. Trust me. They notice ev-er-y-thing.
  • Girls want to be planned for and thought about without having to make it obvious. Girls joke about dropping hints, but in reality it’s how men discover ways to “surprise” our wives. It can be a tricky balance (and you might have to be pretty quick on the draw to beat her to that second or third “hint”), but there is no greater joy to my wife than something that is truly unexpected – no matter how small – and there is nothing better than seeing her light up with joy and the pride of being a wife of a thoughtful husband when I really, really hit the nail on the head with a simple note, or a fun date she wasn’t expecting.

{Send her to to Boston to see her best friend, buy matching coffees, mow the lawn, get her that goofy mustache corkscrew she was eying, give her a Snuggie and Food Network magazine for Valentines Day…}

  • It’s a little hard to admit, but really listening and finding out what your wife wants is pretty of important. I’m still working on this piece – all of us guys are. Hints and all, it’s not naturally easy. But it’s our job as a husband to “figure out” our wives and discover what puts a spring in her step. When you continuously pursue and serve your wife, in turn, she will gladly love, respect and serve you also. Think of it as a life-long treasure hunt… it’s fun!

Now, the ladies:

So, lots of women out there might be saying to themselves, “My man doesn’t have a thoughtful bone in his body. I should just quit reading now, and copy and paste the “man” section into an email and send it to him at work.”  Well, just hold the phone, because it might not entirely be your husband’s fault… and sometimes (cough- dear wife – cough) getting an email at work isn’t the best way to communicate.

Hang with me here!

  • Create an environment that makes it easy for us to be thoughtful. You probably know what I mean: Jabs with nasty absolutes like, “You never take me to the movies” . Or, when you’re with friends, you toss out:“The last time you bought me flowers was when my car broke down and you made me walk home in the rain. Haha!” (but no one’s laughing and it’s awkward). News flash: These types of comments make a man never want to never take you to the movies! It makes a man want to buy flowers for you, stomp on them outside the grocery store and walk away! Okay, that’s a bit extreme, but truthfully, the negative assumptions and attitude removes the fun of being thoughtful, and puts a bunch of prideful hurdles in the way of loving acts.  Side note for men: We’ve all been there when our minds says, “She ‘wins’ if I buy her flowers after a comment like that.” As men, we need to overcome the jabs as our wives learn not to throw them.

{Make your home a place he wants to be, don’t ask for a room with a hot tub when he just surprised you with a stay at a resort instead of a Days Inn, let him have his game time – and have fun with unexpected tickets even if you’re just there for the hot dogs, wait until a relaxed and focused moment to talk about your dreams and desires…}

  • Lose your preconceived notions. Right now, you might be a little depressed. I can hear some of your thoughts now: “But my husband probably wouldn’t ever do the dishwasher or take me on a nice date or do anything that requires thought unless I remind him.” Don’t fret ladies; there is a right way to prompt thoughtfulness. It all starts with removing expectations. It’s a step that you just can’t skip, because when a man does put forth the effort to be thoughtful and you expect something else or something better it will kill their motivation to do it again. Just let go, and I promise that you’ll be pleasantly surprised. The next step is…
  • Bring it up at the right time. Finally, it is very important that you don’t mention the things that are special to you right when your man is doing something they are really passionate about or absorbed in. For example: It is not a good time to ask a man to go on a picnic during a football game that he has been looking forward to all weekend. It is a good idea to chat about your dream vacation, future plans or favorite piece of jewelry over dinner. I admit it. We aren’t good multi-taskers. Take this into account… and leave the door open for your husband to get it right.

If you don’t learn to be thoughtful, you will miss opportunities to love.

Thoughtfulness isn’t just for marriage, it’s for everyone. So, call a grandparent, bake brownies for a neighbor, give someone in pain a hug, facebook message someone who affected your life, and just plain seek out opportunities to love. Try to live an entire day by being thoughtful – It’s tough, but it’s worth it. Let us know how it goes!

Tastes like {Home}: Vegetable Beef Soup

Everyone has that unique set of flavors, textures and smells that instantly transport them back home…

We’ve all been there: You’re rushing around making dinner after work, and then all of the sudden you find yourself sitting in your mom’s kitchen with the table at eye-level, a spoon in your hand and something dribbling off of your chin…

In your mind, of course.

For me, one of those time-travel dishes is my mom’s “Vegetable Soup.” With loads of vegetables, chunks of beef and its signature apple cider vinegar tang, it is my ultimate comfort food, and the first recipe I asked my mom for after the Husband and I were married. It’s also very easy to make. Definitely a bonus.

Some other yummy benefits:

  1. I almost always make it with leftovers – Clean out the fridge, stretch your $ and get an amazing depth of flavor!
  2. It gets better the longer that it sits – Seriously. It’s wonderful piping hot from the stove, but even better in two days.
  3. You can make a huge pot of the stuff and eat it for weeks – Let it “marinate” in the fridge, then freeze for great take-to-work lunches and fast dinners.

Here is the usual drill: The Husband starts dropping subtle hints that he would like to incorporate some meat into his dinners. “Hey babe – You know, you could say ‘Or just add chicken!’ to this meal on your blog. It’s REALLY good, but some people might like chicken…. yum, chicken… mumble, mumble, beef….mumble, drool…”

Then, after a few more meals, I can tell by the look in his eyes that the man needs some red meat. And, if I would like the trash taken out or my windows happily scraped or my next shopping trip approved, I had better serve some. Fast. (Ladies: Chickpeas can only take you so far in your marriage… Sometimes, it takes a pot roast to get things done).

So, I toss a roast, veggies, seasonings, some red wine and the kitchen sink into a crock pot before I leave for work, and we are greeted with delicious smells and a fast dinner when we get home. My favorite vegetable additions are sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts (fresh, cut in half), baby carrots, fingerling potatoes, onions and a couple of cloves of garlic.

Well, with just the two of us, we always have a ton of meat, broth and flavorful vegetables left over. That is where the soup comes in. Just separate everything, stuff it in the fridge, and pull it out when you’re ready. The exact quantities don’t matter (ANOTHER reason I love soup… ) so just go with what you have!

Homey Vegetable Beef Soup

Ingredients:

About 6 hearty servings

  • 3-4 cups Beef broth (Reserved from the roast, or purchased)
  • 1-2 cups Beef roast, cooked and slightly shredded/chopped into large bite-sized pieces (Or, whatever you have left. I like more veggies than beef, so even a little is fine!)
  • 1-3 cups of leftover roasted vegetables (or whatever you have left), roughly chopped (While not necessary for the recipe, the flavor is wonderful. If you aren’t making this from leftovers, just add 1-2 potatoes, cubed. They will cook with the soup.
  • 2 bags of frozen mixed vegetables, or one “family sized” package (corn, green beans, carrot cubes…you know the one.)
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 can of tomato sauce
  • About 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar, or to taste (trust me… it makes the dish!)
  • About 1/2 cup of green lentils (Just for fun!)

Directions:

  • In a large pot, add all ingredients except vinegar, stir and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 1 hour, or until vegetables are tender. Add vinegar toward the end of the cooking time. Add pepper to taste – you shouldn’t need additional salt.
  • Serve with crusty bread, cheese and sliced apples. Warms you from the inside out, reminds you of dinners when you were 12…

Enjoy!

It’ll make you (and your man) happy for weeks to come.

What are some of those flavors and foods that make you feel like a kid again?

Our Friends {Up} North

You know those times that you feel like you could say “Thank You” a million times, and it still couldn’t begin to explain how blessed you feel?

Our weekend adventure left me and the Husband in just that state: Reeling with gratitude for friends, hospitality, surprising excursions, epicurean delights, wise words and the road we have ahead.

We trekked up to Ancaster, Ontario to visit our good friends, Gordon and Selena, and their son Harrison. Another set of friends, Phillip, Josie and baby Gabe, met us there over the weekend as well. (Note: Gabe was the most beautifully well-behaved child I have ever met. SUCH a sweetheart! And, he gave me kisses…)

We’ve known these wonderful families for a while, but have been itching to get to spend some real time together hanging out and having fun. This was the perfect opportunity!

We talked babies, education, faith, food, the arts, and…. TRAVEL. One of the many reasons we make the trip up was to get Selena’s world-class European travel advice. Yep: The Husband and I are planning a special trip to Italy in the spring….. and have been hopelessly at a loss as to where to begin.

No more! We think we might have a start, some ideas for a middle, and end. Details will emerge as we solidify them. Already can’t wait! {May 2012}.

Besides talking and eating Selena’s fabulous meals (seriously delicious pork & applesauce, jams, cheeses, steak & potatoes, pate, soup, salmon sandwiches and salads!… and her tea was fabulous as well.) and getting a new appreciation for wine and spirits from Gord, we visited the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), shopped, and ended our visit with a trip to the Falls and Niagra-on-the-Lake.

I also taught Harrison how to use a rubber-band wrapped around his hand as a gun (see upper left corner). I’m sure that made Selena happy. And no, I wasn’t kicked out the country for possessing firearms ; ) (Sorry guys…I had to use one Canadian joke. Just be proud I refrained from using “Eh?” in the title).Toronto was such a progressive, fun city – Lot’s of fabulous European influence and green living!

After breezing through several exhibits – (The dinos were our favorite!), we were treated to lunch at Crystal 5 (c5), a restaurant at the top of the museum, overlooking the city.

So beautiful. So delicious. {Goat cheese & beet salad  and pulled pork tacos, cappuccino and re-imagined french toast for dessert…}

Fortino’s was an amazing grocery – a little like Whole Foods, and packed with an amazing selection of produce, cheeses, prepared foods and products I hadn’t seen before (it takes me forever to shop at home…let alone when there is soooo much to see!).

The Falls were breathtaking. I’ve seen the American side, but I have to say our friends up north have a better view : ) LOVED the rainbow!

Lunch at the Oban restaurant at Niagra-on-the-Lake was perfect. Have you ever had a Caesar? A Canadian tradition, it’s like a Bloody Mary, but with Clamato juice. Doesn’t sound delicious… but it was actually pretty refreshing.

Such a pretty afternoon.

But I have to say, the Tiramisu & Bacio Gelato was the highlight of the day. (Think icy Nutella!). The spot on the top left is where Selena and Gord were engaged

A wonderful trip with wonderful friends. We’re already looking forward to the next get-together!

It’s the season of Thanks. What unusual thing are you thankful for? (Canadian friends and Goat Cheese are already taken…sorry).

Harvest Salad with {Apple Cider} Vinaigrette

Yes, there is squash involved. Avert your eyes now if you can’t handle another bite. But really… you’d regret it.

You are sort of getting this recipe third-hand: This dish was inspired by Steph, who was inspired by this dish from The Daily Garnish. The genius that she is (that’s a math teacher for you!), Steph substituted apple cider for orange juice in the millet recipe. As I was licking my fork after sitting down to dinner with her and her husband a few weeks ago, It dawned on me that it would make a delicious salad dressing. Boy, was I right! (Thanks girls!)

P.S. Little known secret fact about Steph: She loves Honda mini-vans. Shhhhh.

This salad is packed with everything I love about this season: Salty-sweet roasted squash, tangy Gorgonzola cheese, crunchy toasted pecans, tart dried cranberries and melt-in-your-mouth pan-fried cinnamon apples. I declare these match(es) made in heaven.

A perfect accompaniment to any meal (Like Thanksgiving…), but this delightful concoction could be great as a main dish as well. Add chicken, toast a crunchy baguette, and you’re set. (Or, you could have it at 9:00p.m. with leftover quinoa loaf and BBQ sauce like we did. Super classy.)

Harvest Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette

Serves 4 (ish) as a side dish

For the Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

For the Salad:

  • One squash, thickly sliced – I used a Sweet Dumpling, but Acorn or even butternut would work as well (you would just need to peel and cube the butternut)
  • One to two apples, sliced – Depends on size
  • 1/3 cup of pecans, toasted and chopped- Can use without toasting, but they are more flavorful after a just a little bit of time in a dry skillet!
  • 1/3 cup Gorgonzola crumbles – Any strong cheese will work, and even Feta in a pinch.
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • About 6 cups of spinach or mixed baby greens
  • 1 T Earth Balance, or olive oil (or butter) for sauteing
  • A few dashes of cinnamon

Directions:

  • Slice squash, and bake on a foil-covered baking sheet with olive oil and salt at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until it starts to get a little brown and caramelized. You will probably have leftovers… never a bad thing.
  • While squash is baking, combine the dressing ingredients, and whisk. You will have plenty for a crowd, or just to save in the fridge for another day.
  • Toss the sliced apples into a skillet with the Earth Balance or olive oil, and sprinkle with cinnamon. Let them cook until tender (they will smell soooo delicious!), about 15 20 minutes minutes on medium heat. Note: These apples are wonderful on freshly baked biscuits with honey (like my mama makes)…or almost anything for that matter.

  • Arrange cooked squash, apples and other toppings over a bed of greens, and serve! I like to have my dressing on the side, but feel free to toss a little in with the finished salad if you like.

When you eat this salad, it’s like the entirety of the month of November is having a party in your mouth. You wouldn’t want to miss out on that, would you?!

So, slip on your comfy PJ’s best party dress, grab some leftovers baguettes, and enjoy…

A {Happy} Harvest

Happy Harvest!

Our weekend involved music, friends, a race and far, far too much pumpkin fluff. In other words, it was great :)

We woke up on Saturday for a “Pumpkin Run” at a local park. Proceeds from the two-mile trail run went to benefit a Youth Leadership program. It was c-c-c-cold early in the morning, but our two miles through trees, puddles and over bike paths warmed us up in no time! We dressed up (keepin’ things festive) and had a fun time with a few friends that joined us. I placed second for women, and one of our friends took home the first place prize. It was for a good cause, but the race was also a great reason to go to a fun breakfast out :) We didn’t meet anyone famous this time, though…MMMMM… Oats!

We spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out, watching movies, and getting ready for one of our FAVORITE seasonal traditions. Danny & Halley’s Annual Pumpkin Carving Party! Danny works with the Husband, and his lovely wife Halley is the queen of all hostesses, She always makes every party delightful with her attention to detail and fun, crafty decor. I could have taken pictures all night!

I brought Pumpkin Fluff that I made using this amazing recipe (I just switched out the whipped topping for marshmallow fluff, and used a little less sugar. It was good on everything…. including pancakes the next day!) and an old favorite, Spinach Artichoke dip (from Cooking Light! Try it…it is easy and so, so yummy. Just use the whole box of spinach instead of half : )

We actually had to leave the party a bit early to make it to our next event, but Halley and Danny had a special announcement for their guests that they shared with us before we left:

Congrats on the ‘lil punkin’ (to arrive May of 2012)! And thanks to good friend Heather for the beautiful photo. We can’t wait to meet him or her!

After the party, we made a quick change, and went to a brand new venue for a special throwback concert – The Contours. Their big hit was, “Do you love me? (Now that I can dance)” recorded in 1962. I adore music from that era (I have a stash of my parents’ records and have seen Paul McCartney (Beatles), Paul Simon (Simon & Garfunkel), Bill Medley (Righteous Brothers), Don McLean (American Pie), Peter Noone (Herman’s Hermits) and Mickey Dolenz (The Monkees) in concert!) They sang a ton of great hits by other Motown artists, and Alexandria’s – a new tapas bar and event space downtown – was breathtaking.

Look at that lighting…and those sparkly suits! We danced the night away, enjoyed fun cocktails and got autographs… Loved every groovy minute of it.

Because we had to leave a little early from the pumpkin party, I didn’t get to finish my carving. But, I loved the design I had picked out so much (and my white pumpkin) that I rounded out my festive weekend by carving it on Sunday!

Loved the finished product! Super easy, too (yay for stencils!)

All of these activities put me into full-fledged harvest/crunchy leaves/thanksgiving/just-double-digits-until-christmas mode. So, for dinner I HAD to whip something up that matched my autumnal-hued mood…

I have something special for you coming soon!

Sorry -But this little post is a book already. Get the recipe next time!

{In the mean time, visit Halley’s blog – The Halley Daily!}