Spaghetti Squash with mushrooms

With every love, there is squalor.  With every joy, there is pain.

Thats just how it is.  Thats the nature of the world we live in.

One of my recent favorite books called The Awakened Heart, by Gerald May, says it well, “In both joy and pain, love is boundless.”

How true is that?  The more love we are exposed to, the greater the possibility of pain that comes with it.  We open ourselves up to love.  Make our hearts vulnerable to another person.  We entrust ourselves in someone else, trusting that they will hold our hearts in their hands like a delicate feather while hurricane winds are blowing through life.

And yet, it is inevitable that our hearts will be let go of at some point.  Or that we will let go of someone else’s heart.  We will endure the pain of love just as much as we inflict it on someone else.

Are we all just crazy?  Why would we want this?  Why would we risk so much for the sake of this thing called love?

“To love is to care, to care is to give ourselves, and giving ourselves means being willing to be hurt.  More than the surprises of love, I think it is our vulnerability to love, the impossibility of controlling it or securing ourselves within it, that causes us to speak of “falling” in love.  In love we fall from pride, from our sense of mastery and separateness, from whatever towers of false safety we have constructed for ourselves.  We fall into wonder and wakefulness, joy and agony.”

In love I feel out of control a lot of times.  And honestly, that scares me.  I like to be in control.  I like to have those towers of safety, no matter how false they are.  But they cannot last in love.  Not if love is going to last.

Because when I keep those towers up I push love out.  I push out the very best thing that could come into my life.  In the process of protecting myself from the pain I prohibit myself from the joy.  They aren’t mutually exclusive.  In so many ways they are bound together.

As the holiday season approaches (literally just around the corner) we’ll be reunited with family and friends.  We’ll be showered with lots of love, and no doubt have to deal with some old pains in one way or another.  I encourage you to embrace this, as I will too.  Opening ourselves up to love.  Embracing the lessons it has to offer and enjoying the warm fuzzies it gives us inside.

Also, this spaghetti squash with mushrooms is really tasty.

Roasted spaghetti squash.  Shiitake and chanterelle mushrooms.  Onions and garlic.  Basil and parmigiano reggiano.  All mixed together in one bowl of goodness.

Ready. Set. Go!

It’ll be done in like an hour.  Plus!  Its really good for you, which I looooove.

Spaghetti Squash with Mushrooms

Slightly adapted from Shutterbean

Ingredients

  • 1 medium spaghetti squash, halved
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 container shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 package dehydrated chanterelle mushrooms
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil (about 8-10 leaves)
  • 1/2 cup parmigiano reggiano, freshly grated
  • red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Rub 1 tablespoon of olive oil on spaghetti squash, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast squash for 20 minutes, cut side up.
  3. Fill small bowl with warm water and add dehydrated chanterelles.  Let sit for 20 minutes.
  4. Turn squash over and continue roasting for 20 more minutes.
  5. Drain chanterelle mushrooms and set aside.
  6. Heat saute pan on medium with 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Add onion and saute for about 3-4 minutes.  Add garlic and saute for another 2 minutes.
  7. Add mushrooms and saute for about 5-6 minutes.
  8. Add a pinch of pepper flakes, salt and pepper.  Reduce heat to low.
  9. Remove squash from over and let cool for about 5 minutes.  Shred meat of squash with a fork and put into pan with mushrooms.
  10. Add parmigiano and basil and stir together until combined.
  11. Add salt and pepper as desired.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Truth:  I’ve been trying to think up ways to get out of doing school assignments.  These ideas center around bribing my teachers with baked goods.  Unfortunately, these ideas will most likely never come to fruition because I’m too self-conscious to actually do that.  I don’t talk much to my professors so I have visions of them looking at me strangely and asking if I’m even in the class.  It would get uncomfortable.  I would turn bright red like I always do when I’m nervous and embarrassed.  My palms would be sweating.  That makes things awkward.

Truth:  I have tried to bribe a teacher with baked goods before.  I was in high school, my senior year, and I was taking Government.  I had very little idea about what was going on in the class.  Everyone else seemed to get it.  I sat in the back.  Stayed quiet.  I went to study sessions before tests and I brought bags of homemade chocolate chip cookies.  I liked baking.  My teacher liked eating cookies.  He had the power to give me an A.  It was a natural progression.  A win-win situation.

Truth: I doubt that the above story has any actual truth behind my grade in that class.  Just so you know.  Cramming the night before the test may have helped too.

Truth: Bribing isn’t good.  It will get you no where because it’s not honest.

Question:  Is it different if you’re just offering tasty treats to people who look like they could use a little sugar while they’re grading?

No?  Thats not different?  You sure?

Fine, forget the bribes.  Or the offerings.  However you’d like to phrase that.

Lets just talk about another truth.

Truth:  These pumpkin whoopie pies are one of the best things I’ve ever eaten.  I’m not exaggerating.  I love them.  And if I didn’t have really good self control, I would have eaten them all.

The first time I made these was last October.  My friends and I were having a wine and cheese party at my house.  I made these as a little sweet bites for people to munch on after they had enough cheese.  Lets just say, that at the end of the night we had leftovers of everything except these.

People went crazy for these pumpkin whoopie pies.  The pumpkin cakes are light and delicate, full of spices, but not too sweet.  They are sandwiching a filling of smooth, creamy mascarpone cheese slightly sweetened with powdered sugar and flavored with vanilla.  The combination of the two is divine.

I don’t enjoy when desserts are overly sweet.  These have a perfect balance of sweetness, with warmth from the spices, and comfort from the familiar taste of pumpkin.

These playful sandwiches will make you smile, they might make you giggle with excitement, and if you’re trying to bribe someone with these, they might even get you what you want.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Recipe slightly adapted from Baked Bakery via Martha Stewart

Yields: about 20  pumpkin whoopie pies

Ingredients

For the pumpkin whoopie cakes

 

  • 11/2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 Tablespoon ginger
  • 1/2 Tablespoon cloves
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 11/2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the mascarpone filling

  • 1  8 oz. container of mascarpone cheese
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

  1. To make the cookies: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare two sheet pans with parchment paper, a silpat liner, or non-stick baking spray.
  2. In a large bowl whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and spices.  Set aside.
  3. In another large bowl, whisk together brown sugar and oil.  Whisk in pumpkin puree and then add in the egg.  Whisk until all ingredients are combined.
  4. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and whisk until fully incorporated.
  5. Using a small ice cream scoop, drop heaping tablespoons of dough onto prepared baking sheets about 1 inch apart.
  6. Transfer to oven and bake for 15 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Let cool for about 5 minutes on pan, then transfer to a cooling rack.
  8. To make the filling: sift powdered sugar into a bowl or onto a piece of parchment paper.
  9. In a bowl, using an electric mixer, beat mascarpone cheese until fluffy.  Add in powdered sugar and vanilla.  Mix until combined.
  10. Transfer to a piping bag and snip the the end of the pastry bag.*
  11. Once the cakes are cooled completely, pipe the filling onto half of the cakes.  Top those with the other half, creating little sandwiches.
  12. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 days.

*If you do not have a pastry bag, you can use a plastic sandwich bag.  Just fill the bag with filling and snip one end off.

Apple Pear Butter

I absolutely love fall in the Pacific Northwest.  Growing up in New Mexico, I never really got to experience the joys of fall.

Crisp, cool air.  Muted sunlight.  Trees colored with brilliant shades of orange, red, and yellow.

Of all the seasons, it’s definitely my fav.  It is so lovely yet there is something so melancholy about the autumn season that resonates with me.  A beauty that is unparalleled, yet fading so quickly.  Too quickly.

That seems to be true of so many things in life.  Intimate moments of connection with people.  Your absolute favorite dessert.  A sunset.  A delicious glass of wine.  A kiss.

All these beautiful moments, so lovely when they arrive but leaving us wanting more when they depart.  I can’t help but feel the desire for more radiant trees, more sunlight, more hot tea on a cool day once the rainy season set in.  And it is a long season.

I think God knew that we would need one last burst of color before the dreary, grey clouds made their way into the skyline.  Its his gift to us.

On another note, I’m totally into this apple pear butter right now.  It’s good.  So good that my boyfriend took 2 jars home with him.  He doesn’t even really like sweet stuff.

And it’s super simple to make!  It’s made in a crockpot so you basically put the ingredients in and let it sit for hours and hours until the apples, pears, cinnamon, and brown sugar turn into “butter.”  It’s kind of like apple sauce, but thicker and with a richer flavor.

Also, I didn’t can mine.  I didn’t have the time or desire to go through that process, but if you want to then go for it!  I’ll totally support that and give you a high five when you finish.

How should you eat this?

Out of the jar is a good start.  You could also…

Spread it on toast.  Stir it into your oatmeal.  Try it in a savory dish with pork or roasted chicken.  Swirl it into your ice cream and then top it with some roasted apples and granola.  Use it as an accompaniment on a cheese plate.  The possibilities are many.

Most importantly, enjoy its goodness.  And savor the tastes of fall.

Apple Pear Butter

Recipe from Martha Stewart

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 pounds of anjou pear (about 5)
  • 2 1/2 pounds of gala apples (about 5)
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Directions
  1. Peel, then grate apples and pears.  (You can core them if you want first.  I didn’t and it helped because the core was like a little “handle” when I was grating them.)
  2. Transfer to a 5-6 quart slow cooker.
  3. Stir in brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon stick.
  4. Cook in high for about 4 hours.
  5. Remove cinnamon stick, but save it!  We’ll be using that again.
  6. Transfer mixture to a food processor and process until smooth.
  7. Return mixture and cinnamon stick to the slow cooker and continue cooking for another 4 hours, until mixture is thick and browned.
  8. Remove cinnamon stick and let mixture cool.
  9. Transfer to airtight containers, and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks, or freeze up to 3 months.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Bars

Isn’t it crazy that we all make hundreds of decisions every day?

So many things going on in our heads.  So many choices before us.

And not only having all those choices before us, but realizing that each one of them can influence our day, our mood, or our outlook on a given situation.

I’ve been thinking about my choices and decisions a lot the past couple days.  Thinking about how my mood is affected by the choice I make.

I’m in school right now, and not particularly fond of the classes I’m taking or the amount of homework I have to get done.  My attitude has been less than stellar since week one.  Not wanting to read, write papers, go to class.  Forcing myself into doing them all.

But when I got to thinking about it the other day, I realized how blessed I am to be in this position.  Granted, my interest isn’t particularly piqued with the classes that I’m taking right now, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t beneficial at all.

And more than that, how many people would love to be in my shoes right now but can’t because they don’t have the time, money, opportunity, etc.?

I have been keeping such a negative mindset, choosing to be pessimistic for the last 6 weeks and it’s definitely not making my life more enjoyable.

Sometimes- well many times- in life we get put into situations that we don’t want to be in.

Things happen that are unexpected.   I thought this term was going to be a breeze.  Then after week one I was depressed.  Not really.  I wasn’t depressed, but I definitely wasn’t excited.

But, again, I made a choice to think the worst about it.  I made the decision that I was going to have a hard time.  I let the clouds cover the blue sky.

And there is always a blue sky underneath those clouds.  Thats so cheesy!  But I know it’s true.  There is the choice to make the most of the circumstance that you are in.  It probably won’t be easy to get through, but when it’s all said and done, making the decision to embrace it and learn as much as you can from it will ease the difficulty.

And if the situation seems too difficult.  The choice to be positive is too hard to make then set it aside, and make these peanut butter chocolate chip oatmeal bars.  They might help with the situation!  At least your tummy will be happy.

These bar are loaded with good things.  Whole wheat flour, oatmeal, peanut butter, and dark chocolate.  This is a great sweet treat if you’re watching your kcals.  A little square is hearty, not overly sweet, and completely satisfying.

And if you end up eating the whole pan because you’re craming for finals or stressed about work?  Well, at least you’re getting a lot of fiber!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Bars

Makes 9 squares

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cups peanut butter (I used Adam’s crunchy, but you can use creamy!)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare an 8×8 baking dish by spraying it lightly with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl mix together flour, oats, baking soda, and salt.
  3. Using a stand or hand held mixer, cream together the peanut butter and brown sugar on high until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add vanilla and mix until combined.
  5. Add the dry ingredients and mix until combined on medium speed.
  6. On low speed incorporate the milk into the peanut butter mixture.  Mix until dough forms.
  7. Stir in chocolate chips.
  8. Roll dough into a large ball.  Place dough in the center of the prepared baking dish and press out into the dish, pushing dough to all the corners.
  9. Bake until set and the top is golden brown, about 18-20 minutes.
  10. Remove from oven and let cool completely.  Cut into squares.
Enjoy!