Sometimes—most times really—I’m not the quickest to pick up on the obvious. When I was wondering why it had been so hard to get inspired for fall a post I looked within, to all manner of character flaws, for an explanation. It took a friend in the grocery store, mocking the paltry contents of my grocery cart to make it obvious. I no longer have two of my biggest, loudest, stinkiest, most wonderful reasons to cook. If, like me, you are slow to notice signs here some dead giveaways.
You might be an empty nester if:
- You no longer park near the cart collection stands at the grocery store.
- You buy milk in half gallons, then quarts, and still wonder if it’s gone bad.
- You put everything you can imagine needing into your cart and it still costs less than $50.
- Your ice cream has freezer burn.
- You actually pay attention to special diets, and try to accommodate them.
This last point is what today’s post is about. Well, that and butternut squash, my food champion of fall. (Let’s remember squash on toast, sugar and spice soup and Halloween Soup and on and on in the butternut/kabocha hall of fame.) The empty nest is suddenly available for visitors, which is awesome, and they bring with them special diets. At one point recently three guests joked that one was gluten free, one was sugar free and one was calorie free. Guest Number 4 was Vegan. This all worked because a: They all had a sense of humor and adventure, and b: I had time to care (see above).
In my quest as a Vegan sympathizer I’ve tried a lot of things recently. I’ve tried to make both cheese and pizza crust out of cauliflower. No and no. I’ve made Reuben sandwiches out of seitan, a thousand times NO. I’ve also found some reasonably good stuff like grain-free carrot bread, and mayonnaise made with chickpeas. And, with much inspiration from Minimalist Baker and other sites, I’ve made some unbelievable stuff, like butternut squash pizza, the key ingredients of which I share below.
It’s been a fun experiment, and I like being able to find things that can broaden my own food horizons and make people on special diets happy. That said, life is about finding the right balance. When I asked my husband if he was game to try black bean sweet potato burgers for dinner, he merely went to the freezer, removed a steak and thunked it on the counter. Know your audience, people, and enjoy whoever is in your nest.
Butternut Squash Sauce
From the Minimalist Baker, with amounts adjusted
For every cup of cubed butternut squash you will need:
- 2 tsp olive oil ( 1 tsp oil for roasting and another tsp for adding to the sauce)
- 1 garlic clove, whole, skin removed
- 1 tsp maple syrup
- a pinch of salt and pepper.
Keep in mind 1 Tbsp is 3 tsp. Sooooo, math whiz that I am, for 3 cups squash you will need 1 Tbsp of oil for roasting, and another Tbsp oil to add to the sauce, and 1 Tbsp maple syrup. A baking sheet easily holds 4 cups, so amp up ingredients if you’ve got the squash.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and position a rack in the middle of the oven.
Add cubed butternut squash and peeled garlic cloves to a baking sheet and drizzle with half total olive oil and a pinch each salt and pepper. Toss to combine.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until all squash is fork tender.
Transfer squash and garlic to a blender or food processor with remaining olive oil and maple syrup. Purée until creamy and smooth, adding more olive oil or a touch of water if it’s too thick. The consistency should be creamy and spreadable (not pourable). Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
Use sauce as you would pizza sauce, topping it with your desired cheese and toppings and baking the pizza at 425. Make a great Pizzadilla as well, as evidenced on the fine corn tortilla pictured above.
Vegan Parmesan Cheese
Also from Minimalist Baker
This is surprisingly good. As with any imposters, better to think of it as its own thing. (I’m looking at you, black bean “brownies”). It’s sort of a weird craving now. Like I needed another.
- 3/4 cup (90 g) raw cashews (try raw slivered almonds or brazil nuts too)
- 3 Tbsp (9 g) nutritional yeast
- 3/4 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
Add all ingredients to a food processor and mix/pulse until a fine meal is achieved. Store in the refrigerator to keep fresh. Lasts for several weeks.
But that’s not all! Some bonus fall accessories:
Tahini Miso Sauce
If you don’t have miso in your fridge, do yourself a favor and get some. Merely figuring out how to use it up you will take you on a flavor adventure. Toss this sauce with pretty much anything roasted, but especially cauliflower, brussels sprouts, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, etc, etc.
- 2 Tbsp. tahini
- 1 Tbsp. white miso
- 2 tsp. red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp maple syrup
- optional: grated fresh ginger, pinch of red pepper flakes, splash of Tamari. Do experiment here!
Whisk or stir all ingredients, adding enough water, a spoonful at a time, to make a smooth sauce.
Fried Sage Leaves
Put them on anything for fall goodness
- Olive oil
- Fresh sage leaves, twice as much as you think you want
- Coarse salt
Heat oil in a pan. Fry sage leaves 6 or so at a time until crisp. Remove to a paper towel with slotted spoon and sprinkle with salt. Repeat until you have enough to actually share with others.