Roasted Butternut Squash Mole Enchiladas

People often ask me how I cook with Jackson around. In We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook, I wrote about how cooking with him was kind of like cooking on an obstacle course. For a long time, that was what it felt like. But recently, I realized at this stage–the two’s–cooking with him is one of the easiest things on my to-do list to accomplish with him around. Not easy…but it’s something he’s come to feel at ease around. It’s kind of “our” thing.

I left him with a friend the other day for a few minutes and when I returned she shared this little conversation they had.

Sarah: Do you have a dog?
Jackson: No, I have a mommy.
Sarah: Oh, well that’s almost as good as a dog.
Jackson: Yeth, I cook with mommy.

Well, there you have it. Dogs don’t make very good cooking companions for kids, but mommies are very good for that.

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My other to-dos don’t have the same smiley affect on him. Writing with him around. Yeah right. Phone calls. Let’s just say, the last conference call I was on with our editor, I had to muffle the phone while I hollered, “Jackson, don’t stick your head through the fence” and then again while he hollered, “Noooooo! Don’t wipe meeee!” as I was trying to discreetly potty train mid-call.

Cooking is mostly a piece of cake…because he can participate, he can be a helper. And even when he can’t help with something like chopping onions, he’s still content because we’re together and I’m talking to him, not somebody else on the phone or looking at a computer screen.

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And with a little creativity, there’s almost always a way to get a child involved in the cooking if they want to be.

Butternut Squash Puzzle

I don’t cook every day, but the days I do, the moments we are in the kitchen together, are often the moments we enjoy the most. The kitchen is a place where our lives intersect, where my almost 30-year old female joys and interests cross with my two-year old little boy’s interests. I don’t have to pretend that the lego tower we just built is the tallest most amazing piece of architecture I’ve ever seen. He doesn’t have to be patient with me as I make a quick call or pick up groceries. The smells of cloves and cinnamon, the colorful block puzzle from butternut squash, the sound of the blender engine purring excite us both. We don’t have to pretend. We just have to be. Together.

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Roasted Butternut Squash Mole Enchiladas

Serves 4

5 cups diced butternut squash

1 tablespoon oil (canola, olive, grapeseed)

1 teaspoon brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

8-10 corn tortillas

1/2 cup raisins, soaked for 10 minutes in warm water and drained (optional)

2 cups Mole Sauce (I used this easy recipe from Vegetarian Times)*

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Preheat oven to 400. Toss butternut sqaush with canola oil, brown sugar, chili powder, and cinnamon. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes or until tender and cooked through. Resist temptation to eat all the squash now.

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Reduce oven temp to 350. Ladle 1/2 cup mole sauce into bottom of a 9×13 casserole dish.  Wrap corn tortillas in a damp paper towel and heat in microwave for about 30 seconds, just enough to warm them up and make them pliable. Dip corn tortilla into mole sauce. Fill with about two tablespoons of butternut squash and a sprinkle of raisins. Roll up. Repeat. Ladle a generous amount of sauce on top. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.

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I didn’t put the raisins in when I took pictures, but I should have! I added them to the top and it really made the dish, so I incorporated them into the final recipe.

Serve with black or wild rice. The nuttiness from the black rice went perfectly with this dish. 

*I blended half of the sauce this time. I think I’d leave it unblended next time though, because it was a lot prettier unblended.

On a really rough day, cooking these Spinach & Mushroom Mole Enchiladas and Roasted Butternut Squash Enchiladas (not pictured) with Jackson was the bright spot, the only time in a full day that all was well in our wold, the two of us cooking side by side happy to be doing something we both love together. (Then came the epic awful, rocking him for an hour and half because that's all that was left in me, awful night.)

Same sauce unblended on spinach and mushroom enchiladas. Much much prettier, eh?


“Carrot Cake” Chutney (Topping for Cream Cheese & Crackers)

Carrot Cake Chutney served on atop crackers and whipped cream cheese

(Becky, The Mama)

I named my wonderful daughter “Rachel,”  after my wonderful sister Rachel St. John-Gilbert. 

My sister Rachel, with my grandson Georgie, on our Girlfriend Getaway to Seattle

Little did I know when my baby girl was born,  that one day she and my sister and I would all write books. My sister’s newest book has just been released: The Well-Lived Laugh: Designing a Life that Keeps You Smiling.  I think it is her best book to date. You’ll laugh, you’ll be inspired, you’ll let go of unnecessary pressures. Just trust me. Buy it or download it (click on picture of book, below,  to go to Amazon), beg or borrow it.  Or enter to win a copy right here. (Details to follow.)

KINDLE EDITION JUST $2.99 TODAY ONLY

My sister describes herself as an “offbeat observer who uses her wit to weave together comic takes on the ordinary.” I can testify that she is a connoisseur of life’s small joys, squeezing every drop of happiness from any tiny, remotely fun or interesting experience.  Here is a picture that my grandson George took of my sister on a recent trip to Seattle. This was our first stop, a quiet Asian tea house down the street from Pike’s Market.  I swear, she’d only had one sip of a mild jasmine tea. But leave it to my sister to find it a euphoric experience.

My sister in joyous rapture after a sip of green tea. (Julie, my daughter-in-law laughs and looks on. My grandson George, age 5, snapped the picture!)

I love receiving presents from my sister Rachel, because she thinks of the most unusual, wonderful, slighty quirky gifts.  For my birthday this year she gave me a little battery-powered milk foamer and a tiny Vietnamese coffee maker. (Which she promises to show me how to operate someday.)  She may send adorable comical napkins for me to use at my next party,  or a unique and tasty gourmet treat. One year on my birthday, she mailed me pretty jar of something called Carrot Cake Jam. Or was it Carrot Cake Chutney? Anyway, whatever it was called, it was AMAZING. Rach told me to put some cream cheese on a cracker, top it with the carrot mixture, and wait for my mouth to get very happy. So I did as I was told and about twenty minutes later, there was nothing left in the jar. Years later, I would sometimes think about that “perfect bite” of sweet-piquant cinnamon and slighty crunchy carroty-raisin goodness, mixed with the smooth salty flavor of cream cheese and crackers….   and feel sad that I’d probably never come across a jar of that yummy Carrot Cake Watchamacallit ever again.

Then last night I decided to create, to the best of my ability, a similar version.  Eureka!  I did it!  This stuff is amazing on crackers, but also a fun carrot cake “mix-in” for yogurt or ice cream or atop almond buttered toast.  An easy and unique treat to serve at your next party or bring to a hostess. . 

Now, before I forget: For a chance to win my sister’s new book, simply leave a comment below letting us know that you re-tweeted or pinned or facebooked this post (or any other you like from our blog), or liked my sister’s fan page. We’ll put your name in “the bowl” and pick the lucky winner to be announced next week.

Carrot Cake Chutney

Carrot Cake Chutney

Makes about 1 1/4 cups

Ingredients

5 medium sized carrots (preferably organic) peeled and chopped into 1 inch pieces

1/3 cup well drained crushed pineapple

1/3 cup agave nectar

1 T. brown sugar

Pinch salt

½ t. vanilla

2 t. cinnamon

3 T. raisins

2 T. white vinegar

Directions:

Process carrots in a food processor or blender until they are about the size of oatmeal flakes, small and just a little bit chunky.

 

Processed carrots to a tiny dice

Mix the carrots with all the ingredients above and simmer in a skillet on medium low for about 5-8 minutes or until the carrots are tender-crisp and the syrup is thick and reduced by at least half, most of it absorbed into the carrots and raisins. (With only a tablespoon or two of syrup remaining in pan.) If you’d like your chutney to have a bit more kick to it, add another teaspoon of vinegar or a squeeze of fresh lemon, once you’ve removed the pan from the burner. Cool and put in a tightly covered container in the fridge to let the flavors mingle and intensify. Serve cold with a small spoon, along side a plate of crackers and a small bowl of whipped cream cheese. 

 

 

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