Winter squash

Autumn is coming and after that,  then Winter.  The Collingswood Farmers’ Market is coming to a close for the year.  Only a few more weeks to go.

In the spring we can’t wait for strawberries and asparagus…and then tomatoes, corn, blueberries, peaches, and summer squash.  Now we are looking for vegetables to enjoy in cold weather…potatoes, sweet potatoes (white and orange!), cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, leeks, and WINTER SQUASH.fullsizeoutput_5aa8

I will admit that it was my husband (born and raised in New England) who introduced me to winter squash, especially butternut and acorn.  His mother cooked them.  My mother did not.  Ever.

I will admit, also, that winter squash were (and sometimes still are) a little bit intimidating.  When I look at a summer squash (zucchini!) I can picture how to cook it and how to eat it.  The first time I made winter squash I had no idea how to get it ready to cook.   Basic cookbook time.

My husband told me that his mother used to cut the squash in half, clean out the seeds, put a tablespoon of butter in the cavity, sprinkle some brown sugar, and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until soft.  That works.  Roasted Acorn Squash

I have since modified the recipe by cutting, cleaning, and peeling the squash before I cook it.  Then I steam them and mash them with butter and a little salt, like mashed potatoes.

Honey Nut Squash and Delicata Squash are new varieties.  You can eat the skin.  It is very thin.  I prefer to peel them, steam them, and mash them with a little butter.  I also roast Delicata squash for a crispy finish.  (Link to recipe here).   Delicata squash fries.

Here are two more simple recipes using winter squash (your favorite variety or a combination) for a 30 minute soup and a snack cake.

Winter Squash Soup

2 Tablespoons butter
1 onion, diced
4 cups peeled and cubed winter squash
2 medium white potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 cups of chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
8 ounces of cream to finish (optional)

Cleaning a winter squash (butternut):

1.  Melt the 2 tablespoons of butter in a large pot.  Toss the diced onion in and cook for  about 5 minutes.  Be careful not to let the onion brown.

2.  Put the potatoes and squash in the pot.  Stir them around to mix with the onions and butter.

3.  Pour in 4 cups of chicken or vegetable stock.

4.  Add 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper.

5.  Allow the squash and potatoes to cook in the broth until they can be pierced easily with a fork.  (About 30 minutes) You can then mash the vegetables with a potato masher to make a chunky textured soup or blend the soup with an immersion blender to make it smootherIMG_9311

6. Once the soup is the consistency you like, pour a cup of cream into the pot and stir.  Eat at once.


And for dessert….

Winter Squash Snack Cake

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 butter, softened
1 egg
1 cup winter squash (steamed and mashed)
1/4 cup applesauce
1 cup raisins

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
2.  Sift flour, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon together.IMG_9289
3.  Mix the squash and applesauce together.IMG_9291
4.  Beat brown sugar, butter, and egg together until light and fluffy.IMG_9288
5.  Mix dry ingredients into the sugar/butter/egg mixture alternately with the squash and applesauce mixture.
6.  Add raisins and stir.
7.  Pour batter into a greased 8 inch square pan.
8.  Bake about 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Serve warm, sprinkled with powdered sugar, or let cool and ice with butter or cream cheese icing.  And some autumn sprinkles.Delicata squash fries.


Applesauce loaf (to share)

There are many home cooks who do not share their recipes.  They do not for a variety of reasons that are their own.  My grandmother, whose father was a baker, was a great baker and did not share her recipes.  My mother, her daughter, asked her for her recipes.    They were not written down.  The result was that my mother, her daughter, baked with her and wrote many of the recipes down as they baked together.  Now I make them and share them with my daughters and, frankly, anyone who asks.  Look right here….recipes!

My grandmother’s recipes were not always easy to transcribe.  She didn’t use measuring spoons.  And her measuring cup was a “nickel” cup sold at the variety store down the street.  You know…that big white coffee mug with the big handle.  That was it.

I made this loaf one year in a hurry from my mother’s recipe card.  It was the night before the office Christmas party and I forgot.  I had time to make something simple and this was it.  The ingredients are things that are always at hand.  One of my colleagues came into the smorgasbord of dishes and first tasted my applesauce loaf.  And then he pulled a chair up to the buffet table and sliced about half of the loaf.  Someone tossed out a comment about his less than correct behavior.  He responded by telling us that the applesauce loaf tasted exactly like something his grandmother used to make and he simply couldn’t stop eating it.  He hadn’t had anything like it for years.  He was delighted when I offered him the recipe.  And for years after he brought the applesauce loaf to share with the rest of us at Christmas and sometimes on a whim.

I’m glad I shared my grandmother’s recipe.  Now lots and lots of people can enjoy her baking….forever.
This is a simple recipe that is really more a cake than a quick bread.  It can be made in an 8×8 inch square pan or a loaf pan.

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 egg
1 1/4 cups applesauce (I make my own…but purchased is fine)

1. Turn on oven and set at 350 degrees Fahrenheit
2.  Sift flour, baking soda, salt, and spices onto wax paper (or into a bowl)
3.  Beat brown sugar, butter, and the egg in a large bowl until light and fluffy.
4.  Mix dry ingredients into the sugar and butter mixture alternately with applesauce.IMG_9270
5.  Pour into a greased 8 inch square pan or a loaf pan.
6.  Bake the 8 inch square pan about 45 minutes…the loaf pan about 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake or loaf comes out clean.
7.  Serve warm or cool.
8.  Powered sugar can be lightly sprinkled over the top before serving.

IMG_9274link to homemade applesauce recipe on this blog

A variety of apples purchased from Fruitwood Farm and Wm. Schober and Sons Orchard were used to make the applesauce.



Farmers are people too.

Rick Hymer has been a New Jersey farmer for 25 years.  It is what he has always wanted to do.  He loves being his own boss, growing flowers and vegetables, and sharing all of that with his family and friends.  Us. He considers those of us who have shopped at his stand at the Collingswood Farmers’ Market for the entire life of the market, his friends.  543272_390818657656762_349448693_n

Rick Hymer does not sell a crazy wide variety of things.  He sells flower, herb, and vegetable plants in the Spring.  During the summer he sells tomatoes, bi-colored corn, peppers, cucumbers.  And in the Fall he sells the best red-skinned potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage.

I love cabbage and Rick Hymer’s cabbage is the best I’ve ever eaten.  He explained that he uses seeds from a vintage variety.  It’s the best for soup, a side dish, stuffed, cole slaw.  Years ago when I lamented the impending loss of his delicious cabbage he told me how to “grow” it so that I would have it all winter.  He sold me several heads of cabbage that he dug out with the roots still attached.  I did as he instructed.  I buried those cabbage heads upside down in my garden with the roots sticking out like a handle.  I covered them with dirt and waited.  When I needed cabbage, weeks, months after the market had closed for the season, I grabbed the root and pulled a head out.  I peeled off the layer of outer leaves and I had a gorgeous fresh head of Rick Hymer’s delicious cabbage.  Sometimes the winter weather was too harsh and the cabbage didn’t make it.  But more than one year I pulled the last buried head and cooked that cabbage with my corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day!

So far this Fall I’ve purchased those much anticipated sweet potatoes and broccoli.  Cauliflower is coming soon.  This odd summer (weatherwise) has pushed back the harvest

The average American farmer works more than 10 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Rick does.  To be sure to bring something to his table for our table.

But, farmers are also people. People like us. People who like spending time with families, watching the game on Sunday, reading the newspaper, playing with our grandchildren.

Rick Hymer says that his least favorite aspect of farming is the long hours, and that there is no guarantee for a successful crop.  He regularly misses family gatherings because ripe  tomatoes or the day the cauliflower must be planted wait for no man.  And sometimes, even with all the time and sweat and sacrifice, the crop fails.

Rick thinks this is the year he will retire from farming.  But he says he will keep his greenhouse open.  He’ll be back to Collingswood in the Spring with flowers to sell.  Probably herbs and vegetable plants.  He thinks he’ll plant a little bit.  Enough to sell at his home farm stand.  He thinks he might offer his help to other farmers too.  Definitely he’ll find his way back to The Collingswood Farmers’ Market in some capacity.  He feels like the people there, shoppers and vendors, are his friends.  And he is sure he’s going to miss them.  He likes talking with them.

I hope he’ll be back.  I like what he sells and I like what he says.  And he always has a smile.  But if he decides to grab his fishing pole and head out for some peace and quiet, I wish him many long and happy years.

Rick Hymer is a farmer.  Farmers are people too.  And Rick Hymer is one of the best!




Some recipes:

Mashed broccoli (for people who don’t “like” broccoli)

Trim and steam a head of broccoli.
When the broccoli stalk can be pierced with a knife and is soft enough to mash, take it out of the steamer.  Put the broccoli in a serving bowl.  Drop some butter on top to melt.  When the butter is melted, mash with a potato masher or large fork (or puree it with an immersion blender).  Sprinkle with salt to taste.  Serve.



Sweet Potato Baked Home Fries

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Wash and peel the sweet potatoes.  Cut into even sized chunks of about an inch.  Put the potato chunks into a pot of water and boil them until a knife just pierces them (about 10 minutes).  Drain and put the potatoes back into the hot pot.  Stir gently and quickly with a wooden spoon to “rough them up”.  Drop butter into the pot to melt. Coat the potatoes with the butter.  Sprinkle lightly with salt.  Dump the potato mixture onto a foil lined tray.  Bake in the oven for 30 to 45 minutes.  Watch for doneness….they will get browned.  When they are browned to your liking, take out of the oven and scoop into a serving bowl and enjoy!




Produce from Hymer Farm.

It’s finally time for soup…

We’ve had a peculiar summer here in the Mid-Atlantic.  Hot.  Humid.  Rain.  Repeat.  Not the kind of weather that makes me think of soup.

But the weather for the last market was positively autumnal and I craved soup.  While treasure hunting my way through the Collingswood Farmers’ Market I thought of a great way to make a delicious, unique, and simple vegetable soup and I set to it.

My daughters and I shop together each week and our shopping strategy is to walk the length of the market to see what’s new and enticing.  We stop, turn with the sun  at our backs, and shop, filling our wagons, until we are at the end of the market where we’ve parked our cars.

I decided during our walk to give every farmer a space in my soup pot and I bought one or two things only from each stand.  This is a great way to experiment with new vegetables.  It is also a great way to get your children involved.  Let them choose.

Recipe for Hamburger Vegetable Soup.

Ingredients:  a pound of ground beef or bison, leeks, celery, carrots, lima beans, winter squash, potatoes, green beans and/or yellow beans, cabbage, plum tomatoes, mushrooms, zucchini….what would you add?

1.  Dice and saute one stalk of celery, two leeks, and three small carrots in about a tablespoon of butter for about three minutes.
2.  Chunk up and saute the ground meat.
3.  Cut up and add your chosen vegetables to the pot.  A little of each makes for great flavor and fun eating.

4.  Pour in a 32 ounce box of chicken broth and 32 ounces of water.
5.  Add a clove of garlic (whole, so you can take it out before serving), salt and pepper to taste, and 1/4 to 1/2 cup dried parsley.  (You can buy fresh parsley at the market and pull the leaves off.  Delicious!)
6.  Stir all the ingredients, put a lid on it,  and let simmer on low all day.  The house will smell terrific!  Be sure to check the liquid level during the day and, if you have to run out for a quick errand or to take a nature walk with the children….leave the lid on and turn off the heat under the pot.  Then come back in a turn the heat on again.  The soup will continue to slowly cook, without the heat, while you’re away…don’t stay away too long.  If the liquid seems too low add some water or some broth.


I served this soup with some crackers and cheese spreads (also from the market…see Hillacres Pride …cheese crackers are wonderful…and Cheese Etc.).  Grilled cheese with Hillacres Pride Cheddar on Wild Flour Bakery sour dough bread is also delicious!  And those fabulous little rolls with some farm fresh butter from Villa Barone…maybe even some fresh mozzarella slices.

And for dessert….Some sliced apples from Fruitwood Farm and Wm. Schober and Sons with cookies from Springdale Farm and Wild Flour Bakery.
Some (I hope all) of the farmers and vendors from whom I purchased:  Springdale Farm, Buck Wild Bison, Wild Flour Bakery, Flaim Farm, A.T. Buzby Farm, Hymer Farm, Formisano Farm, Muth Family Organic Farm, Viereck Farm, Savoie Organic Farm, Wm. Schober and sons, Fruitwood Farm, Davidson’s Exotic Mushrooms.

For your next shopping trip to the market…don’t bring a list, have no preconceived notions.  Buy something new.  And have fun!