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cooking poisonI love squash–love, love, love it.  When I was a kid, my mother tells me, I would eat squash every chance I got until my skin turned orangeish. I also ate pumpkin pie mix straight out of the can when I couldn’t get squash.  Turns out that Gentleman Scholar doesn’t care for squash, but if he told me that before, I didn’t believe him.

“You should cook with different ingredients” he told me.

“I love squash.” I told him.

“You should get some hobbies.” he told me.

“Cooking with squash is my hobby.” I told him.

He was less enthusiastic about this recipe, but I loved it, and I’m excited I used quinoa successfully the first time.  When I’ve had it in the past, I didn’t really care for it  (I didn’t dislike it, but was ambivalent), but it came out really well in this case.

Quinoa Butternut Squash Gratin
1 ½ lb. butternut squash, seeded, peeled, and diced
1 cup organic quinoa
2 cups water
1 tsp. salt
3 eggs, beaten
1 ½ cup Gruyere cheese, shredded– I actually used Jarlsberg because it was on sale.
1 cup Italian Bread Crumbs– I bought a Rosemary and Olive oil loaf and tore it up into chunks rather than buy breadcrumbs.
salt and pepper to taste

  • Preheat oven to 400. Spray a 2-quart baking or gratin dish with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Note: Who the hell has a gratin dish? I used my one casserole dish that I use for everything from baked mac and cheese to Gentleman Scholar’s Apple Crisp.  I don’t know if I could even recognize a gratin dish if I saw one–silly.

  • Peel and cube a whole squash, then put in a ziploc plastic bag and seal. Then pierce a few times with a fork and microwave on high for 3-5 minutes until squash is soft and tender.
  • Note: I just heaped the squash in a bowl and covered with a paper towel.

  • Wash the quinoa in a fine sieve thoroughly (about 5 minutes) until water runs clear. This is very important, as quinoa has a bitter protective coating that can linger even after processing.
  • Note: I used my French Press to accomplish this, and it worked perfectly.  I had been planning to MacGuyver something with paper towels and a colander, but that seemed like a disaster waiting to happen. French Press was exactly what I needed, I didn’t lose a single grain of quinoa (except the stuff that stuck under the filter, which really wasn’t much).

  • Transfer squash and quinoa to a large (2 or 3-quart) pot. Add water and salt to pot and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and the quinoa blooms into little spirals. Remove from heat and let rest.
  • Mix quinoa and squash mixture, egg cheese, and salt and pepper to taste, then transfer into baking or gratin dish. Sprinkle bread crumbs over gratin. Drizzle 1 Tbsp. of olive oil on top and bake for 35-45 minutes or until top is golden brown.

This was seriously delicious, and hearty without being heavy.  I might add a bit more cheese next time–cheese rules, but otherwise no complaints.  The egg and quinoa made a dense but springy kind of texture, which was delightful.  I did notice that about an hour after eating this, I started to feel really, really full.  Perhaps quinoa continues to expand after eating(?)  Either way, pretty happy with the results.

My running mix is a rather laughable collection of songs that I would rarely listen to in real life.  I’ve been fine-tuning it for years, and the songs are chosen so that when my Ipod is set on shuffle, I almost never hit a song that lags and makes me want to stop running.  There are a few gems that make me want to run even harder though– run over children, sprint, and make people remark “wow, she’s not messing around.”

These songs are:

Eminem: Lose Yourself

Bon Jovi: Shot Through the Heart (not to be confused with You Give Love a Bad Name- this one rocks so much harder)

Natasha Bedingfield: Not Givin Up

Ting Tings: That’s Not my Name

Madonna: Hollywood

Raconteurs: Steady as She Goes

Rob Thomas: This is how a Heart Breaks

That’s right, Rob Thomas. I don’t know what it is about that song, but it jacks me up in a way that is just silly.

Last 1/2 marathon that I ran, I was flagging pretty hard around mile 8.  I had never run more than 5 miles at one time in my life, and even though I did the first six rather easily and with some joy, I reluctantly started dragging ass soon after.  Finally, someone gave me some energy goo, I psyched myself up, and my Ipod clicked over to Me Against the Music, by Britney.

It was a perfect storm.

This time around, it was 38 degrees out, and my legs were so frozen for most of the race that I could only run in bursts, but I did my best, and had fun as well.  There were also two hills (the course was promised to be flat!), and Rob Thomas’ sweet frenetic jam carried me up them (fairly) happily.

Near the end of the race, I tried to find the perfect finishing song that would allow me to tear into the Fargodome and wow the spectators with my energy and speed, despite the fact that if they were actually paying attention to my time, they would realize I hadn’t pushed myself too hard.  That song was Lose Yourself.  I turned it up, and started sprinting.  One of the race spectators saw me speed up and yelled “Yes! Finish strong!” I yelled back, “I intend to!”

Once I was almost inside the dome, I really regretted the sprinting, or at least starting as far away as I had, but it was too late– people could see me.

As I’ve found to be standard in racing situations, the runner tears across the finish line with as much strength and determination as possible, then runs right into a crowd of people who have also just finished, a snack table, and the people handing out medals.  So I went from 8 mph to STOP very abruptly.  One does not have to be an exercise physiologist to realize this must be a bad idea, but it’s always like this.  I jogged in place for a bit, and wended my way over to the medal holders for my prize.

Once I figured out what each color ribbon meant, and that I would be getting orange, I waited for someone to give me one.  When no one acted, I walked up to some chick and said, “Can I have one of those?”  She seemed a bit shocked and scared, but gave me the medal.  Then I had some nutter butters.

All in all, it went pretty well.

  • I did not beat my old time, I actually added on a minute, but considering the fact that I feel like I walked the whole damn thing, that’s pretty good.
  • I managed to ditch my father after mile two, which sounds cruel, but I never promised that I’d actually run with him, and if he had conferred with me beforehand, I would have told him that flat out.
  • I ran by a former co-workers house, and got a kleenex, a hug, and some encouragement, which makes me feel a bit like a celebrity.
  • I saw two people I went to elementary school with.
  • I was fairly sore the following day, but not really that bad. I certainly didn’t get as sick after this one as I had the first one, which was the goal.
  • I now have two rather ugly medals, which is less weird than just one.

The day after the race, I washed and dried my Ipod and now it is completely unresponsive, but my earbuds still work.