Saturday, October 3, 2009

Quiet Morning

I convinced Bobby to sleep in this morning. Dad was here at 6:30ish to drop off the cement mixer and pick up the pipe threader. I went to bed at midnight, but Bobby didn't get to bed until 3am. This is his third night in a row with little sleep. Once I'm up, I'm up, but I've slept enough. So the house is quiet. Even Abbey is asleep. It's a nice morning, too. Not cold, but not yet hot... just a nice ambient temperature.

We've been really busy the last two and a half months, which is great. Business slowed to a near stop the first half of this year - just because construction in general slowed way down. But Bobby spent the time bidding his butt off, and it started to pay off mid June. Since then, I'm not sure where the time has gone.

Abbey completed all her basic training - the beginner, intermediate, and advanced classes at PetSmart. I really need to be working with her more, but it seems we've been so busy, and when I can stop, I just want to drop. It means I'm lagging in a couple areas.

My vegetable garden this year was basically non-existent. Some of that was Abbey's fault, since she kept digging in it, but it's my fault too - I didn't water nearly often enough. Even the grass in the back yard has a brown tinge to it. But I started over last week - planted a cooler weather tomato, some broccoli and cauliflower, poblano chili, orange bell, crookneck squash, snow peas, beets, carrots, more thyme... Abbey hasn't dug anything up yet, and I find she's less likely to do so when I actually water it. Something about soggy dirt isn't as pleasing to her paws, I suppose.

Bobby and I spent a couple Sundays ago reclaiming our courtyard from the overgrown vines and tree/bushes. It looks tons better, but it needs to grow back some more to be just right. After that I went on a sort of pruning binge, and decided to tackle the Pride of Madeira in the front yard. Turns out that meant I was standing on an ant hill... and they weren't too pleased with me. I escaped with only a couple bites, but I still complained about it quite loudly I'm sure.

It's still quite warm, and supposed to be in the 90s today, but I'm really looking forward to the weather cooling off soon. It seems I'm always looking forward to the seasons changing. Fall gives me an excuse to make soups and bake bread and wear boots and scarves. And since Abbey just ate my last pair of flip flops (okay, she only ate one of them), I'm glad that soon I'll be in socks and sneakers or boots. I know that in 6 months I'll be daydreaming of sundresses and sandals and the beach, but for now, bring on the cold weather and rain.

For a week now, I've been wanting to make my Butternut Squash Zucchini Bread. Emma has been wanting me to show her how to cook some things, so maybe we'll make some tonight or tomorrow. When I was making pancakes the other morning, I set my recipe book, the one I write down recipes I really like in, and the page with this recipe stuck to the counter and ripped so it is now unreadable. So I looked up the base recipe (I remember how I changed it), and wouldn't you know, I posted it exactly one year ago today! Seems it was already cooling down this time last year.

I love spice breads - banana, pumpkin, zucchini. Last year I had butternut squash for the first time, and thought it tasted similar enough to pumpkin for baking purposes. I find I actually prefer it. I'd started with a recipe for Pumpkin Walnut Bread, but found that I wished for a more moist bread. Zucchini Bread is really moist, so I thought I would add some zucchini. Then, to make up for the fact that it's more like cake than it is bread, I decided to replace half the flour with whole wheat flour. And replace a little more with some wheat germ. I don't love walnuts, so I added some hazelnut flour instead.

To make butternut squash puree - halve a butternut squash lengthwise and peel it, then slice it crosswise into thirds. (You may only want to slice off the amount you need to make the 3/4 cup, or you may want to roast the whole thing, depending on what you want to do with the rest.) Lay out the sections. Add a half cup or so of water into the bottom of the dish for moisture. Bake in the oven at 350 or so for about an hour, or until the squash can be easily mashed with a fork (because this is how you'll probably mash it). Smaller sections will cook through faster. Let cool at least enough to handle, then mash it up.

Butternut Squash Zucchini Bread
1 cup (5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup (5 ounces) whole wheat flour
1/4 cup wheat germ
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup (2 3/4 ounces) water
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar
3/4 cup butternut squash puree
3/4 cup grated zucchini
1/2 cup neutral-flavor vegetable oil (such as canola)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup hazelnut flour (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F and position an oven rack in the center. Lightly coat the loaf pan with melted butter or high-heat canola-oil spray and line it with a piece of parchment paper that extends 1 inch beyond the edge of both sides of the pan. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, wheat germ, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, ginger, and salt until thoroughly blended. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and water. Add the sugar and blend well. Add the butternut squash puree, grated zucchini, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract and blend well.

Add the squash-zucchini mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk until blended and smooth. Add the hazelnut flour and stir until evenly distributed. Use a spatula to scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan and level the top. (I sometimes sprinkle some more wheat germ on top hereto give the top some texture)

Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, until the bread is firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. To serve, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices by sawing gently with a serrated knife. Any leftovers should be wrapped in plastic and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Makes one loaf

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