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Monday, October 26, 2015

Meatless Monday - Butternut Squash Lasagna

You’ve seen various takes on vegetarian lasagna.  It’s often really delicious with a nice red sauce and plenty of gooey cheeses. This version uses a traditional autumn squash as it’s variance. Plus it doesn’t have a tomato sauce so if you’re trying to avoid tomatoes for some reason this recipe will work for you, and you’ll have my deepest sympathies since I love tomatoes.

As with most lasagnas this one freezes and reheats nicely so it’ll make a quick meal a few days or weeks from now, that is if you have any leftover.

You can always prepare this a day ahead of time then just pop it in the oven or do like my mom did and make it ahead then freeze it until you’re ready to cook it. This was a brilliant idea because it made getting ready for guests just that much easier, the main course was already prepared. You might want to think about this dish for your holiday pot luck dinners. It looks beautiful in a hand crafted casserole.

Butternut Squash Lasagna by Lori Buff
Butternut Squash Lasagna


Ingredients:

Butternut Squash Filling:

2 cups butternut squash puree (about half of squash. See instructions below))
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup milk (or more, if needed)
1/4 + 1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Spinach Filling:

1 cup cooked spinach (8 oz uncooked)
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup mozzarella cheese
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
pepper, to taste

Other Ingredients:

10 oz lasagna noodles, cooked (for gluten free, try brown rice lasagna noodles)
1 and 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese (or more)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (on top)
Oregano
Paprika
Basil

3-6 Cloves of garlic, minced and sautéed in olive oil

Instructions:


Butternut Squash Filling:
For this filling, you will need to have pre-cooked butternut squash puree. Using food processor, combine 2 cups of butternut squash puree with Ricotta cheese, milk, salt and nutmeg. Add more milk if needed (to make the butternut squash filling very creamy). Mix very well, taste and add more salt, if needed.

Spinach Filling:
Combine spinach, Ricotta cheese, mozzarella, garlic, salt and pepper. Mix, taste, and add more salt and pepper, if needed.

Cooking lasagna noodles:
Bring a very large pot of water to boil, and cook lasagna noodles according to package instructions. Rinse in cold water, drain. Using knife, trim noodles to fit your baking dish (if necessary). Alternatively you could try no cook lasagna noodles.

Lasagna assembly:
Prepare a baking dish. Grease the lasagna dish lightly with olive oil spray. Spread 1/3 of butternut squash filling on the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle lightly with mozzarella cheese and some of the garlic. Top with cooked lasagna noodles without overlapping
Spread half of spinach filling over the noodles. Top lightly with Mozzarella cheese. Top with cooked noodles.
Spread another layer (1/3) of butternut squash mixture, then sprinkle lightly with Mozzarella cheese and garlic. Top with cooked noodles.
Spread the remaining half of spinach filling over the noodles. Top lightly with Mozzarella cheese. Top with the final layer of cooked noodles.
Spread a generous amount of butternut squash filling (the remaining 1/3) over this final layer of noodles, sprinkle with grated Parmesan and remaining mozzarella cheese and garlic (about 1/2 cup of mozzarella). Generously sprinkle the cheese with oregano, paprika, basil.

Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 30 min at 375 degrees.
Remove foil and bake additional 10 minutes.

Ingredients:

1 Butternut Squash, medium size
 vegetable oil or oil spray

Instructions:

First, cook the squash to soften it. It is also easier to peel it once it’s cooked so cook it unpeeled, and peel it after it’s cooked and soft. Preheat oven to 400 Fahrenheit.

Cut the squash in 2 halves, scrape out the seeds and the fiber out of each half.
Lightly oil a backing sheet and place the squash on it cut side down.
Bake for about 30 minutes, remove it from the oven and let it cool. Flip the squash so that cut side faces up to expedite the cooling.
Once squash is cooled, peel it. The skin should come off very easily.
Cut the squash into chunks
Place butternut squash in food processor (or blender), working in batches, if necessary, and process it until very smooth and almost creamy.

Check out the gallery page - Future Relics Gallery by Lori Buff

Friday, October 23, 2015

Textured Oval Casserole

Oval pots are fun to make. They tend to be a bit of extra work because you have to make a bottom and the sides and attach the two together. That creates several opportunities for cracking in the kiln or even before the piece is fired. I don’t make many of them but when I do I normally love them.

This is the latest oval casserole I made. I throw the bottom on a plaster bat then I throw the sides. The reason for using a plaster bat is to have the plaster draw some moisture out of the clay. After a short time the bottom can be removed from the bat and thrown on a table to stretch it into a more oval shape. This creates great texture in the bottom of the casserole as long as I leave some throwing lines in the clay when I’m throwing it.

Handcrafted, ceramic oval casserole by Lori Buff
Stamped Oval Casserole

Next pull the sides into an oval and attach them to the base. This needs some good slipping and scoring and lots of compression on the join. I cover the piece with plastic and let everything sit for a day or two. This helps the moisture level in the clay become more even and helps to prevent separation and cracking. It’s not a bad thing for these pots to dry slowly.

This pot has a rolled edge that I added texture to with a stamp. I like the way the glazes played in the texture and muted it a little. I think I’ll play with this idea a bit more.

Check out the gallery page - Future Relics Gallery by Lori Buff

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Penland Auction Mugs First Bisque Firing

The mug making has begun and is in full progress. You may remember that I’m making 500 mugs for the Penland Benefit Auction. I think I’ve gotten about 100 thrown. You can see them here in the kiln as I’m preparing to fill it for the first bisque firing.  I’ll have a few of my own pieces (pots for sale if they live) but the kiln is mostly just mugs. I don’t even have any shelves and posts in it. A big thank you to Cynthia Bringle for teaching me that trick.

Penland Auction Mugs First Bisque Firing by Lori Buff
Penland Auction Mugs in The Kiln


Cross your fingers that they all survive this firing and the glaze firing that will come next.


Check out the gallery page - Future Relics Gallery by Lori Buff

Monday, October 19, 2015

Meatless Monday - Wild Rice Pilaf with Almonds and Cauliflower

When I was first leaning how to cook I wasn’t very good at it. Actually, I was terrible and I burnt quite a few meals. The joke was that when the smoke detector went off I knew dinner was ready. The thing is, some things are really delicious with a little char. It’s why we like foods cooked on the grill or blackened. The burnt butter in this recipe adds a layer of deliciousness similar to a char from the grill.

This recipe makes a terrific dinner on it’s own but you might want to make extra because the leftovers make a great lunch or side dish. I found it to be quite a satisfying meal.

You can make the rice ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator since it takes about an hour to cook.

Ingredients:

4 Tbs olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 1/4 cupswild rice
3 cups vegetable broth
1 cauliflower, stems trimmed, cut into small florets
1/3 cup chilled butter, diced
1/3 cup almonds, coarsely chopped
1 tbsp Sherry vinegar
Finely grated rind and juice of ½ lemon, or to taste
Garnish with chopped flat-leaf parsley and mint

Wild Rice Pilaf with Almonds and Cauliflower by Future Relics Gallery
Wild Rice Pilaf


Directions:

  • Heat 2 Tbs oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat, add onion and garlic and fry until tender (4-5 minutes). Add rice, stir to coat, then add stock and 1 cup water. Season to taste and bring to the boil. Cover with a lid, reduce heat to low and cook until rice is tender and stock is absorbed (1-1¼ hours). Remove from heat and stand covered to steam for 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, preheat oven to 200C and toss cauliflower with remaining oil in a bowl and season to taste. Spread on an oven tray lined with baking paper and roast, stirring occasionally, until tender and golden (45-50 minutes).
  • Cook butter in a saucepan over high heat, swirling pan occasionally, until nut brown (4-5 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in almonds, vinegar, rind and juice.
  • Serve pilaf warm topped with cauliflower and herbs and drizzled with burnt butter.

Check out the gallery page - Future Relics Gallery by Lori Buff

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Importance of Arts Programs for Kids

Yesterday my friend Gary Rith posted this article where he mentioned how we need more after school arts programs for kids. When I started to write a comment my thoughts got too big for just a comment. I thought my feelings on Arts programs for kids needed a bigger space and more voice.

By now you’ve most likely heard the commercials and arguments about how learning music helps kids (and all people) learn math. We’ve heard the argument that learning art helps kids realize that problems can be solved multiple ways and creative thinking is good for everyone. Nobody became CEO of any company without being able to think creatively. Art education helps with that. I is far more than finger painting. It also helps keep kids in school. I know, I was one of those kids.

When I was in elementary school and junior high school (like middle school only somehow different) I didn’t like school. I came up with every excuse to avoid going, I was “sick,” or truant whenever possible. I had no reason to go to school, in my young opinion. I would have rather stayed home and read a book than go to classes. Despite all of this I was an above average student, I just didn’t like going, I wasn’t interested.
Early pottery of Lori Buff’s on Future Relics pottery blog.
Early Ceramics

Then I took an art class in 10th grade that changed everything. I had always enjoyed and even looked forward to art class but this was different. The teacher explained art theory, gave us interesting and challenging assignments, and made it fun. She cared about kids and art. I became interested in going to school.

This same teacher taught ceramics so I signed up for the class in my junior year of high school. Of course I was hooked and the rest is history. But the thing is, I didn’t want to miss a day of school because of these art classes and in the process I discovered a really great history teacher and a fantastic English teacher. I seriously enjoyed and learned from those classes too. I made certain my schedule was as filled as possible with art classes (we had a great school system) but I also learned that the other classes could be enjoyable also. School became interesting and fun. I wanted to go there. That would never had happened if budget cuts had removed the art classes.

My story is one of the main reasons I hate seeing art classes cut from the budget. What was your favorite class in school?

Check out the gallery page - Future Relics Gallery by Lori Buff

Monday, October 12, 2015

Meatless Monday - Vegetarian Hungarian Goulash

Have you ever looked for a recipe for Hungarian Goulash?  You can find a long list of different recipes that all say  “authentic.”  That’s because most stews are simply a way of making a tough cut of meat easier to eat while getting some vegetables into the diet. I suspect it was normally made with whatever was in the pantry or root cellar. So that is how I normally make it. The most important part is the paprika. I suggest that be proper Hungarian paprika, and yes, you can tell the difference.  It’s a delicious and very flavor full stew. It’s rich and hearty, serve it with some crusty bread and a good dark beer or red wine.

The veggie crumbles or quinoa in this recipe should satisfy most die-hard meat eaters, just don’t tell them.

Vegetarian Hungarian Goulash by Future Relics Pottery
Vegetarian Hungarian Goulash

Since you can cook this goulash for several hours it’s a great dish to prepare when you aren’t certain what time everyone will be home for dinner. In my opinion it gets better the longer it cooks.

Ingredients:

2 TBS cooking oil (vegetable or olive are fine)
1 diced onion
4-5 crushed cloves of garlic
1 package ground veggie crumbles or 1-2 cups cooked quinoa
2 cups Not-Beef-Boulion or veggie bouillon
1/4 cup Hungarian paprika
1 can of diced tomatoes or the equivalent fresh if you have them
2-3 bay leaves
2-3 Hungarian peppers, diced


1 - 3 each of any of these assorted root vegetables, diced:
 potatoes, carrots, turnips, parsnips, and/or sweet potatoes.

Directions:

Heat a dutch oven then turn heat to medium, add the oil followed by the onion, sauté until they start to turn translucent then add the garlic and cook for a few minutes more. Add the veggie crumbles or quinoa and cook until they start to brown, stir frequently. Add the paprika and stir to coat.

Next add the bouillon, tomatoes, and bay leaves. Let these heat until nearly boiling then add the root vegetables and bring to a boil. Let the stew boil for about a minute, add the hungarian peppers and turn the heat down to a simmer. The dutch oven should be lightly covered and the lid vented. Simmer for at least 20 minutes to 2 hours stirring occasionally. The flavors will blend best as the stew simmers. Add more water if cooking for longer.

Check out the gallery page - Future Relics Gallery by Lori Buff

Friday, October 9, 2015

Condiment Dish

One of the best times to use your handcrafted pottery, besides everyday, is when you have guests. Yes, you could put out a can of nuts, a bag of chips and a jar of salsa and call it a party. However, your guests may feel a little more special if you serve them any of these items in a nice vessel.

The design of this condiment dish is based on the relish tray my grandmother always used to serve pickles. I love pickles so I loved the dish. This piece doesn’t feel as grandmotherly as hers did but it still serves the same purpose, you can serve two items side by side and only use one dish.

Hand Made ceramic condiment dish by Lori Buff
Condiment Dish

I like it for cheese dip on one side and guacamole on the other. Or two flavors of dip for veggies or chips. It would also be terrific for nuts, say mixed nuts on one side and rosemary cashews on the other. Oh, the combinations are limited only by the imagination. What would you serve in this dish?

Check out the gallery page - Future Relics Gallery by Lori Buff

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Penland Auction Mugs

When Penland School of Crafts holds it’s annual benefit auction they make it a weekend party for the patrons. They hold luncheons, dinner, cocktails, and even breakfast. The Breakfast in the Barns event is held in the place where the resident artists do much of their work. This gives the patrons a chance to meet the artists and discuss the art. They also get a nice, handcrafted mug for their coffee, which they take home as another memento of the occasion.

I normally volunteer for the auction and have watched the patrons look over each and every mug before making their choice. It’s really fun to watch and it is great to know how meaningful these are to people.
.

This year I volunteered to make the mugs for the 2016 auction breakfast. I’ll have to make 500 mugs and my goal is to make sure that the patrons have a great variety to explore. The majority will be fired in salt or soda at Penland but I’m going to make sure a few get into some kilns around me just so they can have that variation in glaze and firing type. Of course the biggest challenge is making 500 mugs that are different shapes and sizes. I will even hand build a few just to have that be part of the mix.

It’s going to be a challenge, especially considering how small my studio space is but I’m feeling like I’m up to it. It’s only 500 mugs plus a few extra just incase some get broken and all the work I have to make for holiday sales. I’ll sleep next year.

Check out the gallery page - Future Relics Gallery by Lori Buff

Monday, October 5, 2015

Meatless Monday - Charred Broccoli Salad

When I first moved out on my own I did not know how to cook. The joke was that I knew dinner was ready when the smoke detector started screaming. Things have improved drastically since those days, now when something is blackened or charred it’s because I want them that way. A little char ads a nice flavor to many dishes. This salad is a great example.


Ingredients:

1 medium sweet potato, washed and cubed
4 Cups Broccoli florets
5 tsp olive Oil + 1 Tbsp. Coconut Oil
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1/8 Chili Flakes
Handful Cilantro, chopped
2 Tbsp Toasted Sunflower seeds
1/2 Hot Pepper, seeded and minced
2 Tbsp. Capers
Sunflower Seed Dressing (recipe below)
Lemon Wedges, for garish

Directions:

1. Heat the oven to 400 F. Combine the chopped broccoli with 3 tsp. Coconut oil, 1/4 tsp. sea salt, and chili. Roast, stirring often until nice and crispy, about 25- 30 minutes.

2. Use the remaining 2 tsp. Coconut oil on the yam slices. Sprinkle them with 1/4 tsp. sea salt and pop them in the oven once the broccoli has been roasting for about 10 minutes. Roast them for about 20 minutes, or until soft, stirring once throughout.

3. Once the veggies are nice and crispy, toss to combine them. Arrange in a bowl along with a generous helping of dressing, the chopped cilantro, chili, and sunflower seeds, as well as a slice of lemon.

4. Just prior to serving, heat the last 1 Tbsp. of oil in a small pan until hot. Gently pat the capers dry with a tea towel, and carefully place them into the hot oil, stirring to coat. Once the capers become white and crisp (about 1 minute), remove the pan from the heat and scoop out the capers (place them on a towel to drain). Sprinkle the salad with the hot capers and serve, season with salt and pepper as needed.

Sunflower Seed Dressing

Recipe:

1/4 Cup Olive Oil
Juice from 1 lemon
2 Tbsp. Sunflower Butter or Tahini
2 Tbsp. Liquid Sweetener of Choice (such as honey or agave)
2 Cloves Garlic
2 cm / 1 inch (or about 1 thumb sized piece of ginger)
Zest of 1 Lemon
1/8 tsp. Sea Salt
2 Tbsp. Toasted Sunflower Seeds

1. Combine the oil, lemon juice, sunflower butter, garlic, salt, and ginger in a blender and puree until smooth. Add water a tbsp. at a time to reach desired consistency. I like mine to be nice and thick, so I only added about 1 Tbsp.

2.Add the zest and the sunflower seeds and pulse to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.  This dressing is supposed to be very thick but you can thin it with some more olive oil if you desire.
Check out the gallery page - Future Relics Gallery by Lori Buff