Even though I’m a total Christmas junkie, I’m not entirely immune to the fact that the holiday season can mean a somewhat overwhelmingly busy schedule (some of it self-imposed)—especially if you love evenings that consist of nothing more than PJs, pizza, and a good movie, which I most definitely do. Still, at this time of year, I manage to embrace the hectic lifestyle and roll with it. Naturally, I have to tone down the sewing and quilting since I can’t exactly park myself in my studio for hours on end—but I did manage to make two nine-patches:
The first is in honor of my two Christmas tree shopping trips: one for me and Kyle, and one for the Eccles family. The second is in honor of this rather crazy past week which involved six Christmas celebrations in the span of seven days. Exhausting, yes, but incredibly fun.
Squeezing in some quality bread baking time is also a struggle, but I have found another delightful way to get my carb fix—savory bread pudding. Funny thing is, I’m not the biggest fan of sweet bread pudding, but this dish really does it for me. It’s a bit like stuffing, but makes for a more satisfying meal, especially if you throw in plenty of veggies and even some meat. I found this recipe at “A Veggie Venture” but tweaked it just a bit. First of all, I’m not a vegetarian so I threw in some sausage. Secondly, I like a very custardy pudding so I took my Mom’s advice and doubled the custard the second time, making for a much moister and tastier dish. Here’s my version, along with a few other adjustments.
Savory Squash Bread Pudding
- 2 tbps butter
- 2 yellow onions, chopped
- 12 cups spinach, washed
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 larte butternut squash, washed, peeled and chopped into 1/3″ pieces
- 1 lb. whole wheat bread (I used my favorite whole wheat sourdough), cut into 1/3″ cubes
- 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (or other cheese of your choice)
- 9 oz. sausage (I used three of Aidells chicken apple sausages)
- 6 eggs
- 2 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 4 tbps mustard (I used Dijon)
- 4 tsps ground sage
- 2 tsps nutmeg
- 3 tsps sea salt
Preheat the heaven to 375 F (or as the clever Veggie Venture blog points out, you can prepare the pudding beforehand and bake later on).
Melt the butter in a large pan over medium-low heat and add the onions, cooking until they are soft. Remove half of the onions and set them aside. Add the spinach, a handful at a time, stirring so that it is coated with the butter and decreases in volume. Add the 1 1/2 tsps of sea salt, stir, and set aside.
To prepare the custard, whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Add the other custard ingredients and mix them together.
In a (very) large bowl, combine the squash, bread, sausage, and set aside cooked onions. Transfer half of this mixture to a greased baking dish, either 8″ x 11″ or 9″ x 13″. Sprinkle half of the cheese over this layer, than distribute the cooked spinach evenly on top. Add the remaining squash/bread mixture, and sprinkle the remaining cheese. Pour the custard across the pudding, covering it evenly and being sure to moisten all the top bits of bread.
Bake for about 45 minutes. Pierce a piece of squash with a fork; it should be fairly soft. If not, continue baking, covering with foil so that the bread doesn’t burn. Let the pudding rest for about ten minutes before serving.
Somehow, amidst all the frantic to-and-fro, I have managed to complete another sweater (I literally knit in every spare—or sometimes occupied—moment: carrides, lines at the grocery store, before and after meals; you’d be amazed by how this time adds up). I am calling it the Bubblegum Sweater because of this pastel pink color—but I really hope no one Googles this term hoping to see something a whole lot cooler than what I’ve created:
On second thought, it also looks like a sweater that one of Dr. Seuss’s Whos would wear. Yes, it’s probably familiar. Yes, I used the same sweater pattern twice in a row—and yes, I’m considering making a third one with the stash of bright yellow yarn that I procured from the tragic Woolcott-going-out-of-business sale. I’m just a fool for the shaping around the arms, the cowl neck… everything. But I had a little fun at the end, knitting an extra couple of inches at the neck while creating a buttonhole-like space so that I could insert an icord drawstring and pompoms. Every time I make pompoms, I’m reminded that these seemingly simple embellishments are actually quite finicky, but I think they turned out alright in the end.
It’s a wonderfully cheerful sweater for this cold time of year, but it will transition into the Spring months quite nicely—and if you are a fellow New Englander, you know that having to fend off the cold in a cowl neck sweater during the third week of May is a very likely possibility.
Maybe it’s just me, but making the time for a bit of sewing, cooking, and knitting, no matter how hectic my schedule becomes, keeps me grounded and sane. I resent having too much going on when it takes away from those calmer moments of me-time—but a few rows of stockinette here and there remind me that there’s always time to pause, breath, and enjoy.