Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A is for Ancestry, Artichokes and Acorn Squash

I come from a large extended family that would gather for the most wonderful potlucks you can possibly imagine. Always lots of homemade food, recipes mostly originating from the Oklahoma and Missouri areas (though we all lived in or around the San Joaquin Valley in California at that time).

The food was the center of our gatherings (and the best part). All of it delicious to this (then) growing child with a hollow leg, as my family used to say, as I would regularly go back for thirds and I was as thin as a rail (I grew faster than I could eat). Green salads, fruit salads, creamy mashed potatoes, stuffing, biscuits, rolls, hams, turkeys, roasts, vegetable medleys, and oh the desserts! All would vary depending on the time of the year but mostly old fashioned, wholesome, fresh foods that were prepared just right with the most important ingredient, love.

I am a hodgepodge that my mother often called a Heinz 57, my ancestors came from all over the place but mostly all over Europe with about 50 percent German on my father's side.

We, my mother, father, and siblings, moved to Heidelberg, Germany when I was 8-years-old for four years and my palette expanded exponentially. I tasted rich and fatty flavors of the German food that filled my soul as well as my tummy.

In junior high we moved back to the states to Fresno, Ca. where I enjoyed the true authentic flavors of Mexican, Asian, and more that are so well known in that area. It was the ethnic foods that fed my soul and tummy as the American foods just didn't seem to have the full flavors as they did (although I always loved my families cooking).

As a young woman I married a man that was born and raised in Greece with a mother that was a genius in the kitchen and I was blessed to learn so much from her during that period in my life.

All of this I mention to show where my love of food came from and that I have been introduced, and enjoy, a wide variety of foods both in the kitchen and in restaurants.

I once was asked why I use so many spices in my food, which this older Greek woman didn't think was typical of a born and bread North American. I never really thought about it before that moment but I finally told her it was probably due to living in Germany and being introduced to other ethnic foods and learning how to cook them because I enjoyed them so much. She certainly enjoyed how much I seasoned my food.

My first lesson in the kitchen, always take at least one bite because you never know how tasty it may be unless you try it. That is a lesson that carries over into life - taking risks - try something new, you just might love it!

Comfort foods:

Today you get two recipes for the price of one because they are both simple and easy, just the way I like it! Two vegetables that I never would have thought to try if it wasn't for other people - artichokes and acorn squash. Now you may not think of these two things as typical comfort foods but I love them so much that they bring me much comfort when I eat them.

Roasting Artichokes - my favorite way to eat them, dipping them in garlic butter with hearty French bread on the side and a glass of wine.

*By the way, you will discover that I often have a whole ritual of how I eat my food, pairing them with complimentary sides and very specific ways that I eat each food. One of my many idiosyncrasies.

Prep: Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Rinse the artichokes, cut off the stems, peel off a few of the smaller leaves and cut them in half.

I normally cook the large artichokes but the only ones available at the store were the baby artichokes. I decided to follow the roasting directions from the book, The Roasted Vegetable by Andrea Chesman. Which by the way is an awesome book!

I did make one change, I coated them with olive oil after steaming them for 15 mins. and before placing them on the baking sheet. They were perfectly done at the end of the 20 minutes in the oven.

While they are in the oven, melt a cube or so of butter in a small sauce pan and add one clove of fresh chopped garlic. Cook on low for only a few minutes, you don't want to burn the butter or over cook the garlic, pour into a small bowl when ready to serve with the artichokes. Enjoy with a hearty piece of French bread and your favorite wine.

Still working on taking better food photos.

Steamed Acorn squash with butter and salt, simple but good. Steaming Acorn squash cooks rather quickly, I think it is why I like cooking it this way. 

Prep: Cut Acorn squash in half and scoop out the seeds and loose flesh with a spoon. If the two halves will fit in your large steamer you don't have to cut them further but you can cut them into quarters if necessary.

Place them in your steamer with the fleshy inside facing down and turn your burner to medium (you can warm up the steamer while you are cutting your squash).

Check your squash after 15-20 minutes of steaming with a fork and every few minutes after that until it easily pushes into the flesh. You don't want to over cook because then it is a watery mushy bland mess.

When finished, put on your plate with a slab of butter and salt to taste. Simple but oh so good!

No I don't put brown sugar on mine, I love it with just the salt and butter. I will often eat this alone and it fills me up. You can eat this with a side of pasta with grated cheese on top if you are needing a little more.

What unusual vegetable do you love as a comfort food?

Check out the other bloggers participating in the Blogging A to Z Challenge.

PageLines- picture20193.jpgMorgan Dragonwillow is a writing rebel, foodie, urban gardener, recovering perfectionist, poet & author that (mostly) doesn't let her fears get in the way of her passion for writing and creating. She is team leader at @StoryDam, creatrix of  #OctPoWriMo You can find her writing and dancing into a wild and juicy life at Playing with Words. She lives in Marietta, Ga. with her loving and patient partner, their dog that thinks she's a princess, and the cat that reminds her that she isn't.
You can also find her on Google+

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  1. Mmmm, Morgan, you're going to make me very hungry with your posts.

    1. Hah! Glad you like what I'm sharing, Patricia, there is much more to come!

  2. This is going to be a blog to visit before I make the menu up for the week!

    1. Thanks Lee, glad you are enjoying the recipes! I look forward to your visits!

  3. already making me hungry! these sound fantastic.

    What's funny is that my mom said that about us too! we were Heinz 57 as well!

    1. Thanks DJINNIA, glad you like them! Welcome to the Heinz 57 club!

  4. I do love artichokes! Never tried roasting them before, but given that roasting makes everything taste awesome, I'm going to try it!

    1. Thanks Carleen, yes, everything is better roasted! One of my favorites - roasted green beans, yum! Hope you enjoy your roasted artichokes!

  5. Thanks for the roasting recipe - I'll have to try it. :)

    1. Come back and let me know how it comes out for you! Thanks for stopping by Tyrean!

  6. I love hearing your food biography! I miss artichokes. Reminds me Italy!


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