Solitude and Butternut Squash

Fun fact: I have never been to a movie alone. I’ve never even gone to a restaurant by myself.

I have a hard time deciphering between loneliness and solitude. I suppose it has to do with the fact that I’ve always had a good group of friends. Every weekend of my adulthood was spent with this incredible group of ladies. In junior high it looked like staying up until 4 am chatting on AIM with boys we didn’t have the courage to talk to at school. In high school… well, it looked pretty much the same.

My best friend used to live in this cabin behind the graveyard. It looked like it was made out of lincoln logs, and the sprawling front yard was host to endless water fights come summer. Her back room was always stocked with diet coke, and we laid claim to the upstairs. The “big room” was full of squishy coaches and extra beds. Every weekend I would pack my bag and walk over to stay the weekend. Just a few blocks away, my best friend’s house was where I grew up.

This house brought together a group of girls that I still call my best friends to this day. They’re my people. They always have been, and always will be. The problem is, all of them live in Washington. I live in Texas.

mygirls

There’s the conundrum. I can’t head down the street, or across the hall. That comfort is now a phone call or skype date away. And that’s just fine. I chose to move to Texas, and it’s growing on me. Every day, I love it more and more. Down here in my little southern bubble, far from home, I’m learning to be alone. I’m dipping my toes into solitude and relishing in the silence.

Lately I have been so busy that I haven’t even had the time to dabble in this lonely/solitude business. Working full-time at a place I really love results in me working 50+ hours a week and not even batting an eye. It’s on the weekend where I’m left with a whole lot of “me” time. I suppose I’ve never really had to ask people to do things, and so while I have friends from work and through my sister, I’m not good at initiating things. Instead, I spent my Friday night cooking (big surprise). And everything about it was quiet and perfect.

I listened to three hours of This American Life, cleaned my room, finally did those piles and piles of laundry and cuddled with the hound. I found Sprouted Kitchen’s squash empanadas recipe, and they looked so delicious that it pushed me into eating cheese (!!!). This tiny little cafe/grocer opened down the street from me, and while it doesn’t quite serve as a grocery store (unless you can survive on wine and chocolate), they do have a great selection of cheese.

cheeseAs someone who’s taking a step back from veganism, I didn’t want to mess around on my little field trip into the world of cheese. Which is why I had a lengthy discussion about goat, feta and what would go well with roasted butternut squash. We settled on a marinated feta that makes my mouth water when I think about it (literally). And yes, it was far too expensive. But as a I said, I wasn’t going to settle on anything less than divine for this dish.

It succeeded in being divine, and then some.

If this is what “lonely” looks like, I’ll take it.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Feta Empanadas

From Sprouted Kitchen

This is a time-consuming recipe, but it’s worth it. The dough turned out REALLY great, although I did adjust it slightly by using rice milk instead of heavy cream (I wasn’t going to get TOO crazy in my dabbling with dairy), and used vegan buttery spread instead of butter (because it was what I had on hand).

The original recipe called for goat cheese, which was my original plan. But after talking to the British lady (I love an accent) about what would pair well with squash, and I tasted the magic of the feta, I scrapped goat cheese. You can do whatever cheese floats your boat. I think having something salty pairs nicely with the spiciness and richness of the squash.

For the dough:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/3 stick of unsalted vegan buttery spread (or butter)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Ground black pepper (optional, but I always add pepper when I can)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3 tbsp of milk (I chose rice, it was in my fridge…)

For the filling:

  • 1 small butternut squash
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 onion, minced
  • 1 tsp. chipotle powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 2 Tbsp chopped herbs (I used parsley and cilantro, and added a bit more)
  • 5 oz marinated feta, crumbled
  • egg wash (1 egg and splash of water, well whisked)
  • sesame seeds

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Then, start with the dough. Place the flour, salt and butter in a big bowl. Work with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse meal. You want to keep some chunks of butter visible. Beat together the egg and milk. Pour the mixture into the dry ingredients. Using your fingertips, mix everything, making circular movements. Keep mixing, the dough should come together quickly and if it doesn’t, add one more tbsp of cream (not necessary for me). Press to form a ball, and cover with plastic and keep in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.

Cut the squash in half lengthwise, drizzle with olive oil and rub it into the flesh of the vegetable. Sprinkle with salt and cinnamon and roast for about 45 minutes. Remove and let it cool completely.

While the squash is cooking, saute the garlic and onion (or shallot) in a bit of olive oil until just browned. About 8-10 minutes.

Once it’s cool, scoop the flesh into a bowl. Add another pinch of salt, the chipotle, nutmeg, the sauteed garlic and onion and the green herbs. Use a fork to mash everything together. Taste, and add more spices according to taste.

Turn the oven down to 350 degrees F and prepare a parchment lined baking sheet. Roll out the dough to about 1/8″ thickness on a floured surface. I used a cup to cut out circles, and then rolled them out thinner. I made big ones, I made small ones, just do whatever floats your boat.

Leave plenty of room around the edge, and put a dollop of squash in the center and a dollop of cheese. Fold the circle over, and seal the edge with your finger. If you want to, you can press along the edge with a fork to make it pretty. Once on the baking sheet, brush the top with the egg wash. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, and cook for about 30 minutes, or until golden. Enjoy. They will keep in the fridge, and just pop them in the oven to warm them up.

Leftovers for days.

empanadas

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