10 minute Winter Vegetable Gratin

Assumptions.  We all have them.  I certainly do.  I assume a lot of things about another person based on how they look: dressed up, dressed down, athletic shoes, Vuitton bag, under 25yrs old with highlights and lowlights, track pants, ear encompassing headphones.  I think that you get the idea.  It's completely normal to make assumptions about the people around you.  It's how we relate, connect and how we make decisions in our mind about whether it might be someone we would like to be around or not.
However, I don't often think about the assumptions people make about me.  Truthfully, I don't even think of myself as someone noticeable.  And then I had a conversation recently with a neighbour and realized,to my surprise, that the assumptions are definitely there.  Of course they are there.  I know on an intellectual level that people will look at me or have a brief conversation with me and make assumptions based on my hair, my clothes and my accoutrements.  I know this but I don't know it.  In the same way I don't think of myself relative to how other women look at the same age.  I don't think of myself as someone who looks like they might have a tattoo.  I just have one.  So I realize quickly that although my neighbour and I don't know each other very well there are certain assumptions that she's made based on the stuff she knows.

She assumes that I don't eat junk food, like, ever.
Not True.
I eat junk food.  I do.  A lot.  I eat chips.  I love (I mean LOVE) wings and beer.  I don't eat stuff like candy or gummy bears because they make my stomach feel weird.  Not because I don't like them.
She assumes that I don't feed my kids anything but homemade.
Not True.
If Kid #2 could get 'cheesy noodles' (you know that awful stuff that comes from the famous box) everyday, he would be the happiest kid on earth.  I've reached a compromise I can live with by buying somewhat 'natural', organic stuff - still from a stupid box - and letting him have it for a treat once in a while (like once or twice a month).
She assumes that I eat 'healthy' and by healthy she's thinking 'low fat'.
Not True.
I eat fat.  I eat fat in the way of butter, cream, bacon, nuts and cheese.  I don't worry about fat at all.  In fact, I welcome it.  I like it.  I eat fat because it tastes really good and I believe that it's not necessarily the fat that's bad for me - especially those fats.
My neighbour was kind of surprised I guess.  If nothing else, she was somewhat better informed about the reality of my life.  I'm guessing she thought I was a '1 tbsp of olive... only, ever' kinda girl.  In addition, I hope that she's no longer beating herself up about not feeding enough vegetables to her kids or for pulling a box out of the freezer or cupboard once in a while.
I've tried and tried to think of a way to tie this together with the recipe I'm giving you.  It's taken a lot of time and effort but I think that I've found a way.  You see, when you roast a Sunday night chicken and you've made mashed potatoes and celery root, beautiful roasted carrots and parsnips with the chicken and then gorgeous gravy out of the drippings OR if you've hustled yourself home from work and maybe bought one of those roasted chickens from the deli and you want to have something tasty but also 'healthy' (i.e. veg) to go with that - and appease your guilt just a little - then this is the recipe for you.  What takes the longest is steaming the veg.  Everything else you've probably got lying around.  You can use whatever veg you've got, if it's root veg stuff then just make sure you've steamed it until it's just softening.  A little cream, a little cheese and some bread crumbs or crumbled crackers or chips or cereal and voila....

10 Minute Winter Vegetable Gratin loosely adapted from Martha Stewart

2 - 3 cups winter squash, peeled and cubed (about 1 inch cubes will do)
2 - 3 cups kale, chard or spinach, washed and chopped
2 - 3 cups broccoli or cauliflower florets, steamed until just al dente
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
3/4 cup cheddar, shredded (any shreddable cheese will do)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
1/3 cup bread crumbs
1/2 - 3/4 cup cream (more if needed)

Preheat oven to 375°F.
Butter a baking dish and set aside.
Toss the cubed squash in some oil, melted butter or lard just until coated.  Place on a baking sheet and spread out evenly.  Bake for about 30 - 40 minutes or until the squash is browned on the outside and soft on the inside.  Remove from oven and set aside.  (This step can be done days ahead of time as well).
Toss together the vegetables in a bowl until mixed and pour into the baking dish.
Sprinkle with salt and nutmeg.  Sprinkle on the cheddar and then the parmesan.
Sprinkle the very top with the bread crumbs.
Add the cream just until it reaches about half the volume of the vegetables.
Bake uncovered for about 35 - 45 minutes or until golden brown on the top, bubbly and cheesy but not too wet underneath.
Cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

Red Fife Banana Muffins

Baking requires something of you.  Yeah sure, it's soothing, it's not difficult, it's rewarding, for some it's demeaning but it's nothing if not demanding.  You can't serve two masters while you are baking unless you are willing to risk disaster.  There are those times when all the best laid plans and the most intense focus still don't yield something up to expectation.  Today was one of those days.
I intended to be showing you pictures of pumpkin bread today because it's been on my mind for a long time.  I've been delving into my new cookbook to get some further inspiration and I was seriously ready to go.  I'd cleared my time.  I'd prepared the squash ahead of time - roasted and mashed.  My baking tin was prepped.  The ingredients were ready.  This was going to be the thing.  The thing that my eyes and my taste buds have been waiting for.  I started.  Sure, I was adapting things but nothing drastic.  The muffin recipe was being adapted into a loaf recipe.  The changes were right there on the page.  Everything was primed to be perfect...
And then I turned on that Bollywood movie I'd started the day before.
Oh it was fantastic.  It was everything we've all come to expect from our favourite Bollywood offerings.  Extremely well built male whose shirt seems ready to slip off at the slightest breeze or splash of water.  Beautiful, innocent and yet absolutely alluring woman with straight dark hair and enticing eyes.  They dance.  There are costume changes.  Though they are drawn to each other there is so much keeping them apart.  Their love is sacred.  Through the many costume changes and flirtatious glances there's a love story that takes on religious zeal and often spans decades.  It's wonderful, magical, epic and mythical.  And it's not the best thing to have running when you are trying a new recipes that requires adapting and tweaking.  My bread went into the oven and the timer was set.  The timer went off and I even gave it more time.  I even used a cake tester to check that it was done but when I came back to the loaf about 10 minutes later to slice it and take some pictures I found that it had sunk quite drastically.  'I'm sure it's fine' I think getting distracted that once again some beautiful abs and biceps have escaped from the shirt they were hidden under on my tv screen.  I slice my loaf and immediately realize that what I expected to be a perfectly cooled loaf is really cooled pudding.  Complete goo.  It seems that the giggling and dancing, wire fighting (yes - there was that too), garden walks and attempted kidnapping all helped me completely forget that muffin baking time and loaf baking time might be a tad different from each other.

Fortunately one of the positive side effects of such a pleasant distraction is that you bounce back quite quickly.  I was truly none the worse for wear.  'Oh well, these things happen' I say to myself.  Off it went to compost and out came the bananas.  Whole wheat flour and some streusel, a few chocolate chips and the universe was once again in balance... and the happy couple were hugging finally after two hours on screen and 7 movie years of waiting for each other.  Hugging.

I've not given up on my pumpkin bread.  I've still got the ideal in my head.  It's going to look just so and taste wonderful.  The crumb will be perfect and the topping will be the icing on the cake so to speak.  It just won't be happening today.

Red Fife Banana Muffins adapted from 'Baking Bites'
8 - 10 muffins

1 1/2 cup red fife or whole wheat flour
1/2 cup unbleached, all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup milk
1 egg
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 or 3 ripe bananas (about 1 - 1 1/4 cups), peeled and mashed
3 tbsp melted butter

Toppings or additions:
Few handfuls of chocolate chips (additions)
Streusel (topping) - see recipe below
chopped nuts (addition or topping or both)
chopped candied nuts (topping I think)

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Line a muffin tin with paper or silicon liners and set aside.
Combine the flours, baking powder, salt and cinnamon together.  Mix until incorporated and set aside.
Combine the milk, egg and brown sugar together.  Mix well.  Add in the mashed banana and mix again.  Add in the melted butter and mix well.
Add the flour mixture to the banana mixture.  Mix only until the flour is completely mixed in.  Add any additions that you would like ... or none at all.
Fill the muffin cups so that the filling just reaches the top.  Sprinkle with nuts or streusel if you would like.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
Let the muffins cool for a few minutes before removing from the tin.

Streusel - adapted from 'Good to the Grain'

1/8 cup whole wheat or red fife flour
1/8 cup unbleached, all purpose flour
2 tbsp brown sugar
dash of salt and cinnamon
3 tbsp unsalted butter, cold and cubed

Combine all ingredients and work it with your fingers, pinching gently until the butter mixes to form a crumbly texture.

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St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.

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Wanda Thorne
St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.
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