I am so happy that you have landed in my little corner of cyberspace. If you join me here, you will, hopefully, get to know a little about me. You will read my thoughts, my hopes and dreams, and see some of my favorite things. I hope you will visit often. I will try to update it regularly and hopefully you will see an improvement in the blog along the way. Thank you for stopping in to see me as I travel on this journey called "life"!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto with Bacon & Sage

I've been meaning to share this wonderful recipe with you for awhile now and I've been so busy that I haven't had the chance to do that.  I was able to find a butternut squash in the markdown section of the local supermarket. I'm not sure why it was there.

I had some beautiful sage and my original thought was to take the sage, brown some butter, roast the squash and maybe mix it with pasta. I'm not a huge pasta fan; but, I am a huge risotto fan so I decided to see what I could find in the blogosphere for recipes using those ingredients.

Butternut squash is not the easiest veggie to work with or at least it's not for me.  It's hard to cut and hard to peel.  That's where the genius of other bloggers come in to play.  After a doing a search for recipes, I found the blog Stephen Cooks! here.  I am daily amazed by you guys and girls out there.   I learn so much from other bloggers.  Stephan shared a wonderful way to prepare the roasted squash....

"Prick the squash all over with a fork, rub it with olive oil and roast about 1 hour 15 minutes in a 400º oven until a fork penetrates easily to the center. Allow the squash to cool and cut in half. Remove seeds and pulp and scoop the meat out into a bowl. Set aside. (This can be done and refrigerated at least a day ahead if you like.)"

I tried it just as he suggested and it worked beautifully.  I don't think I will ever cut and peel a raw squash again.  The squash was nice and tender and easily peeled and chopped.  I wanted a little more caramelization on the squash for flavor so after I had the squash chopped into pieces.  I spread them on a baking sheet, drizzled them with olive oil and sprinkled a little sea salt on them to try to get a little more flavor out of them.

I don't know how well that worked for my original intention.  They really didn't caramelize at all.  I could have sprinkled some brown sugar over the top and that might have worked but then they would have been too sweet, I think.  The end result was awesome so I don't know that it would have been that much better if the pieces had actually caramelized.  My cooking is always trial and error.  Sometimes it works....sometimes it doesn't....sometimes when my original ideas don't work, the end result is fabulous anyway so whatever, right? 

David fried up some bacon for me....

And he fried the sage leaves....

We didn't have any shallots like the recipe called for so we used a purple onion or red onion...whatever you like to call it.  When you peel the skin, the onion itself is purple.  We chopped the onion and sautéed it in olive oil.  Once the onion was soft, we added the rice and sautéed them together until the rice was a nice golden brown. 

The recipe called for mixing the wine and broth together and heating them up.  I happen to think nothing smells any better than when the wine first hits the pan so I wasn't willing to sacrifice that for the recipe.   Once the rice was nice and toasty, the wine was added and stirred into the onion and rice mixture until it was absorbed.  Oh that smell...... 


Ladle by ladle the hot broth was added until each were absorbed by the rice mixture.

Once the rice was was tender and creamy, we added half of the bacon and half of the sage leaves and some of the roasted squash.  We stirred in freshly grated parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, to taste, and garnished the top of each serving with bacon and fried sage leaves.

It was absolutely fabulous!

Butternut Squash Risotto with Bacon and Sage
Adapted from a recipe from Fine Cooking here
1 qt. homemade or low-salt chicken broth; more as needed
1/2 cup dry white wine

2 Tbs. olive oil

10 large fresh sage leaves

4 slices bacon, cut crosswise into thirds
2 medium shallots, minced (about 1/4 cup)

2 cups 1/4-inch-diced butternut squash

1-1/2 cups arborio or other risotto rice, such as carnaroli or vialone nano

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine the chicken broth and wine in a small saucepan and set over medium heat. In a medium (3-qt.) saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the sage leaves and fry, turning once, until they’ve turned dark green in most places, about 1 minute total. Don’t brown. With a fork, transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Put the bacon in the saucepan and cook, stirring occasionally, until nicely browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the bacon to the plate with the sage.

Add the shallots to the saucepan and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until softened, about 1 minute. Add the squash and rice and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Ladle in enough of the hot broth mixture to just cover the rice. Cook, stirring frequently, until the broth is mostly absorbed. Add another ladleful of broth and continue cooking, stirring, and adding more ladlefuls of broth as the previous additions are absorbed, until the rice is tender with just a slightly toothsome quality, about 25 minutes. As the risotto cooks, adjust the heat so that it bubbles gently. The broth mixture needn’t be boiling; it should just be hot. If you use all the broth and wine before the rice gets tender, use more broth but not more wine. Set aside the nicest looking sage leaves as a garnish (1 leaf per serving). Crumble half of the bacon and the remaining sage leaves into the risotto. Stir in the Parmigiano. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Crumble the remaining bacon over each serving and garnish with a sage leaf.

Thanks so much for stopping by to visit!  If you haven't entered to win my first giveaway, there's still a few hours left.  The giveaway ends on April 1st at 12:00 noon EST.  Don't miss the chance to win some Real New Hampshire Maple Syrup and other goodies!  You can enter to win here.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


It's maple sugaring season here in New England.  As you travel along the roads in New Hampshire, you see the snow melting on the ground and smoke rising above the trees.  The smoke invariably leads to sugar shacks - both large and small. 

Maple Sugaring is completely new to me.  Having been born and raised in Louisiana, I didn't grow up  eating real maple syrup, having "sugar on snow" or any of the other maple treats.  Oh, I had tasted "maple flavored" things like oatmeal or maple nut candies; but, our common household syrup was normally Log Cabin, Aunt Jemima or Karo Syrup.

While I didn't grow up with maple syrup, I wasn't completely deprived.  We would sometimes have ribbon cane syrup made from sugar cane as a special breakfast treat.  Ribbon cane syrup is particularly yummy when you mix it with softened real butter and spread that on a hot biscuit.  It's sooo yummy! At least, I didn't know that I was missing anything then so you don't have to feel sorry for me. 

My husband, on the other hand, grew up with maple syrup and the whole maple sugaring process as part of his life.  His dad did some "sugaring" on a very small scale when he was growing up so when the days started warming up and the nights were cold and the sap started to flow, his dad would tap some trees and begin the process of gathering the sap and boiling it down for syrup.  
When we moved up here to his home state last November, David was eager to revisit those memories of his childhood and visit some sugar shacks during the sugaring season.  He has told me about the process for years; but, there is nothing quite like experiencing it for yourself.  

New Hampshire Maple Weekend was held last weekend so we took advantage of the open houses to see the process in person.  We visited two sugar houses on Sunday.  One of them was a smaller operation as shown in the photos above and the other one was a larger operation.  

Ben's Sweet Maples Sugar House sits on a hill overlooking Route 103 in Newbury, New Hampshire.  You can see the smoke rising from the building this time of year to let you know that the maple sugaring process has begun.   It is open every weekend from 9-7 during the months of March and April and when they are boiling, they offer tours and treats to visitors who stop by.  We have passed by this place often and since it is so close to home, we decided to stop in there first. 

The Sweet Maples Sugar House one of two places of operation for Ben's Sugar Shack.  Ben, also, has Ben's Sugar Shack in Temple, New Hampshire which is open every day from 9-7 year round.  They have a fully stocked store with their syrup and other maple treats for purchase.  If you aren't able to visit the store during the season, Ben's is happy to ship to you.  You can visit their online store here.

One visit to Ben's Sugar Shack and you know why he is experiencing success in his chosen field.  This is a really professional operation.

Did you know that it takes 42-46 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup and that it takes about 45 minutes to go from sap to syrup?  Ben's processes about 500 gallons of sap per hour!  These guys aren't playing around.  Here are some other cool interesting facts about Ben's and maple syrup, in general...

(click the photo to enlarge)

You have to admire someone who knew from the age of 5 what he wanted to do in life and then immediately went after it. After a preschool trip to a maple sugar house, he was hooked. He came home and told his Dad what he wanted to do and the very next day they got started on fulfilling his dreams. Supportive parents are a blessing! By the age of 15, Ben won the Maple Producers Carlisle Trophy for the best syrup in New Hampshire. Way to go, Ben!

If you have ever smelled an open bottle of maple syrup, you can only imagine how wonderful it smells in there when the sap is boiling.  I truly wish I could have bottled that smell and shared it with you here on the blog.  It was ah-mazing. 

One of the benefits of visiting Ben's sugar house when they are in production is that you get to taste all sorts of yummy treats made from the syrup.  There were cookies, candy, baked beans and sausage with syrup.  There were baked goods and ice cream and hot coffee.  They had Maple Barbecue Sauce and Maple Mustard.  So many yummy products were available!

One of my favorite treats available during my visit was the maple cotton candy.  I was a cotton candy fan already but MAPLE Cotton Candy?! 

Yes, it was that good.

Ben not only knows how to make delicious Maple Syrup; but, he knows how to surround himself with good people to help him along with his business.  Everyone there was so nice and friendly and genuinely seemed to enjoy what they were doing. 

Ben picked a winner with Meredith.  On the day we visited, she was busy making sure that everyone felt welcome and that the kids that were visiting didn't get away without trying the ice cream.  The kids loved her so much that she was getting hugs left and right.  We had such a pleasant visit with her too.  She shared with us how Ben got started in the business and about the different grades of maple syrup and about the products that were available for sale in the shop. 

And to think that it all starts with a tap on a tree just like this...

So, it's been about a year since I really started blogging.  I wrote my first post in July of 2009 but didn't write another one until March of last year.  From that point on, my whole life changed. 

I had no idea that I would be blogging my life away when I started this journey.  I had no idea that I would have readers or meet friends out in the blogosphere.  I had no idea that my whole view of life would change with each post.   There are so many wonderfully talented people out in the blogosphere.   I am not a writer or a photographer and I am awed by your blogs daily.   

Who knew that I would "meet" so many wonderful people by starting this blog? 

You inspire me....
You encourage me...
You bless me with your visits, your comments and your emails....

As a small gesture of "thanks" to you, my readers, I am going to
give one of you the following
"Taste of Maple Sugar"...

1/2 Pint of Grade A New Hampshire Pure Maple Syrup

a bag of yummy maple drops made with real maple syrup

And last but most definitely not least....

2 pieces of pure Maple Sugar Candy
compliments of Ben's Sugar Shack!

So what do you have to do to win
this yummy prize package?

All that you have to do to be entered to win is to follow my blog publicly through Google Friend connect, subscribe in a reader or via email and leave me a comment letting me know which one you do.  That's it.

If you would like extra entries....

Visit Ben's blog here and become a subscriber.  Please leave him a comment to say "hello" so that he knows you are new to his blog.  Be sure to come back and leave me a separate comment telling me that you've done so.

"Like" Ben on Facebook here and leave a separate comment here telling me that you've done so.

And last but not least, blog your favorite recipe using maple syrup and mention this giveaway in the post. You must come back here and leave me a separate comment with the link to your blog post. 

***In order to take advantage of the extra entries, you must leave
 a separate comment for each thing that you do. ***

This giveaway is open to all United States and Canadian residents and will end at 12:00 p.m. Eastern Standard time on April 1, 2011.  A winner will be selected via random.org  and announced here on this blog. 

****This giveaway has ended now. 
Thank you all for entering! 
Congratulations to Jessica at Heart on Homestead!****

Thank you so much for a wonderful year!  I look forward to many more. 

Best Wishes, 

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying, ya know? We are very blessed to not have to drive very much these days.  When we do have to drive, the car gets great gas mileage so that helps alot.  Living in town and being able to walk to a lot of places has its advantages even if we have to do it in the snow.  We just dress warmly and walk fast.  One of our vehicles hardly ever gets driven.

It has been a busy week for me this week.  I have been busy doing something with family every day this week and it has been fun.  I have attended a meeting my niece's school with my sister-in-law, spent an afternoon in my mother-in-law's basement potting baby plants for our garden, taken my mother-in-law's car in for service out of town, spent some time loving on the grandgirl, played a real life game of "Storage Wars" with my sister-in-law, cleaned out the units that she bought, sold and delivered the furniture and oh yeah...

We made an offer on a home
and it was accepted! 

If things go smoothly with the inspections and appraisals, we will be moving to our new home when our lease is up at the end of May.  Yay!  The new house comes with a pretty great kitchen, a nice place for a garden and a great back deck for entertaining. It will be a great house for us as it will be easy to maintain leaving us plenty of time to enjoy life. We are looking forward to making it our home.  It is in town, close to family and still within walking distance.  It will be especially nice to walk in the summer.

It has been quite a week around here.  So if you haven't seen me around, you now know why.  I haven't been home very much.  I'm hoping to play catch up on blogging and blog reading the rest of the weekend.  Thanks so much for stopping by and for sticking with me even though I haven't posted much lately.  I can't wait to see what you've been up to since I last visited.

Take care and enjoy your weekend!