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Recipe: Zephyr Squash Bake

14 Oct

I am always glad to add another recipe to my summer squash arsenal because this time of year people are innundated with squash and every where you go home gardeners are trying to relieve themselves of it. I love to turn them into fritters or add them to a soup and my mom loves to grate them and cook them with onions like you would hash browns. When my friend Jacob came to town awhile ago he brought a Zephyr squash from his garden, which looked like a yellow-green striped zucchini the size of a small loaf of bread, and it was so large I wanted to try to bake it like you would a gratin.

Summer squash is a general term which can be applied to any squash harvested in the summer, such as zucchini, patty pan, lemon zuke, etc, as opposed to the winter squash which are harvested in the fall and keep well during the cold winter months: pumpkin, acorn, and butternut. Zephyr squash is not required for this dish, it just happened to be what I had on hand. It worked well because of its large size.

After some pantry rummaging I decided not to do a gratin after all. I had some tomato sauce and half a block of jack cheese that I wanted to use up. This turned out more like a meat-less, pasta-less lasagne, so think lots of sauce and a bit creamy from the cheese. I wanted to use either ricotta or cottage cheese but I had neither, so I substituted Greek yogurt, which worked really well. It  separated a bit when cooked and so it created a ricotta-like texture that was really nice.  I served it with a green salad dressed with oil and vinegar, Parmesan toasts, and because I live with two carnivores, baked meatballs.

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  • one large or several small summer squash, sliced into rounds or half-moons, seeds removed
  • half a yellow onion, sliced
  • about two cups of tomato sauce (jar of veggie pasta sauce will do)
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt, fat content up to you
  • one half cup jack cheese, or more, to taste
  • parsley for sprinkling

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– Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

– Slice squash and put it in a 9 in x 9 in pan.

– Dice a yellow onion and add to pan.

– Pour tomato sauce over onions and squash. Mix gently.

– Add yogurt and mix again.

– Layer top of pan with jack cheese and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until cheese is browned and bubbling and squash is fork tender. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

 

This dinner was simple to put together and perfect for a late summer dinner.

 

 

Holiday Special: DIY Halloween Glow Stick Wreath

6 Oct

We usually don’t go out of the way to decorate the outside of our house for Halloween (the cobwebs being our naturally occurring spooky decor), but this year I decided that our house needed a wreath. A glow stick wreath.

Since I’d never so much as made a regular wreath before, let alone one that involved glow sticks, I knew this would involve a bit of trial and error. I wasn’t sure how it was going to work or what it would look like, exactly, so I bought a bunch of glow sticks, bracelets, and necklaces from the dollar bins at Target, and a Styrofoam wreath circlet from Micheal’s.

After a little bit of experimentation it became clear that bracelets were the way to go so I saved the necklaces and glow sticks for Halloween and I set to work cracking all the bracelets to get them going. Isobel helped for awhile (and had a great time attaching bracelets end-to-end to make a super long glow stick) but when the neighbor kids came to the door the siren song of a summer evening won out, just as it should. This had the happy benefit of me figuring out I could crack a package of glow sticks pretty much all at once in a large stack. This saved a lot of time.

As you can tell from the photos, I activated the bracelets and hooked them together. I used a glue gun to attach a layer of bracelets to the wreath and then attached an alternating layer of bracelets to the first.

 

As you can see from the photos it’s a very simple idea that doesn’t need much in the way of directions, but I do have a few tips to keep in mind that will make this much easier should you want to make one.

– The wreath I bought was about 12 inches in diameter measured on the outer edge. They had many larger sizes, but the larger sizes would mean I’d need a bunch more glow sticks and I wanted to be sure I had enough.

– I bought glow stick bracelets at Target from the dollar bin which came fifteen to a package. Worried I’d run out, I bought a few more from Michael’s dollar bin when I picked up the wreath circlet. Those came twelve to a package. The colors in each were identical.  I used two Target packages and one Micheal’s package to make this wreath, or 42 glow sticks.

– I thought about maybe painting the wreath circlet or otherwise decorating it, but ultimately decided against it. If the wreath was to work like I wanted it to, the wreath part wouldn’t really show up and all people would notice was the glowing circle. I was right and glad I didn’t go to the trouble of decorating it.

– If you don’t have a willing glow stick cracker, you can crack them in bundles of fifteen like I did. I have small hands and am not particularly strong and it was no problem for me. Cracking them one by one is fine, just make sure you have a movie on or someone you adore talking to with you or else it will go slowly. I cracked most of them individually before I realized I could do them as a group.

– It’s important to get the first layer of glows sticks glued firmly down to the wreath because the other glue sticks will just be glued to each other. Take your time.

– Keep a small bowl of cold water nearby since you are using the glue gun. If you get hot glue on your fingers, plunge them directly into the cold water to stop the burning. The stuff is like napalm. My mom taught me this trick!

– It’s tempting to use lots of glue when securing the bracelets, but use as little as possible. There is a slight risk of the hot glue melting the plastic coating of the glue stick which would cause fluid to leak out. As you can see from the slightly glowing spot on the blanket, that happened to me. (Which is also a great reason to put down a towel over your workspace!) Use little spots of glue and work slowly and you’ll minimize leakage.

– After the first layer is established, create the next layer by putting a bracelet in the middle of two other bracelets to alternate the pattern. For the best seal I tried to glue on the spots that had the plastic tubes that attached the bracelets. It was reinforced there and less likely to melt and leak.

– I glued down about four or five layers until I decided I was done. Deciding when to stop is a matter of personal taste, just keep alternating layers! The hot glue dries very quickly, and after I had completed my layers I felt around for lose spots and added dabs of glue here and there to make sure it was secure.

– I think the idea way to attach it to the door would be finishing line or some other transparent wire. But I didn’t think that far ahead when I made this so I just used black yarn from my stash, noting that at night it wouldn’t really matter because all that would show was the glow.

I am really happy with how it turned out! It was fun to make and looks really beautiful. Isobel and I had a great time cracking and making the glow bracelets, and she grabbed a handful of necklaces and went to play with friends while I handled the hot glue gun. She and the neighbor kids came in a few times to check on the process and were in awe. Of course, a wreath like this only glows for one night, but one night is all you need to celebrate Halloween! I bought enough bracelets to make another one and will simply flip the wreath over and glue them to the other side when the time comes. I really wasn’t even sure if this would work so I wanted to give it a go now before the big day. Although it doesn’t glow, I also think it looks really pretty in the day time.

All in all this was a super fun and cheap craft. The glow bracelets were $3 and the wreath circlet was $6. I already had the glue gun and I used one stick of glue and yarn I already had on hand. Once it was up it looked great, and several neighbors came over to tell me so. If you end up trying this, let me know! I’d love to hear how it worked for you, and I hope you get lots of oohs and aaahs from your neighbors like I did.

 

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