Butternut Squash and Sage Lasagna

Photo from Martha Stewart.com

Every Halloween we have a pretty nice celebration of autumnal foods at our house.  This was the big winner for tonight’s feast!

I’ll be sure to let you all know how it comes out.  It sounds amazing!!

Recipe can be found on http://www.marthastewart.com/314642/butternut-squash-and-sage-lasagna


  • 3 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, coarsely grated (2 cups)
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup loosely packed fresh sage leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
  • Fresh Lasagna Noodles, (you will need only 1/2 of the batch), cut into 4-by-13-inch strips and cooked, or store-bought dried noodles, cooked
  • 4 ounces finely grated Parmesan cheese (1 1/4 cups)


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss squash, oil, and 1 teaspoon salt on a baking sheet. Season with pepper. Bake until light gold and tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool.
  2. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees. Combine ricotta, cream, yolks, mozzarella, and a pinch of nutmeg in a medium bowl. Season with salt.
  3. Melt butter in a small saute pan over medium-high heat. As soon as it starts to sizzle, add sage, and cook until light gold and slightly crisp at edges, 3 to 4 minutes.
  4. Place squash in a medium bowl, and mash 1/2 of it with the back of a wooden spoon, leaving the other 1/2 in whole pieces. Gently stir in sage-butter mixture and stock. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Spread 3/4 cup of ricotta mixture in a 9-cup baking dish. Top with a layer of noodles. Spread 1/2 of the butternut squash mixture over noodles. Top with a layer of noodles. Spread 1 cup of ricotta mixture over noodles. Repeat layering once more (noodles, squash, noodles, ricotta). Sprinkle Parmesan over ricotta mixture.
  6. Place baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake until cheese is golden and bubbling, 30 to 35 minutes. Let stand for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

Cook’s Note

Because fresh pasta is more supple than dried, the uncovered edge of store-bought noodles will crisp more readily than the fresh version.


The History of Halloween ~ Samhain


Halloween is probably one of my most favorite holidays.  It has such fond memories of our time in Salem, Ma.  Lovely autumn gatherings with Laurie Cabot and hundreds of other witches from around the world.

Many people do not know that the roots of Halloween go far, far back to the ancient Celts (anyone who’s of Scottish, Irish decent are from Celtic origins by the way)

I was originally going to write a long article on the origin of Halloween, but due to a lack of time I have opted to use this one.  I hope you enjoy it.



Yours truly back around 2004 on Samhain ~ Wearing my handmade cape from Salem, Ma.



Samhain’s History  Samhain (pronounced Sow-en), dates back to the ancient Celts who lived 2,000 years ago. Contrary to what some believe, is not a celebration of a Celtic god of the dead. Instead, it is a Celtic word meaning “summer’s end.” The Celts believed that summer came to an end on October 31st and the New Year began on November 1st with the start of winter. But the Celts also followed a lunar calendar and their celebrations began at sunset the night before. Many today see Halloween as the pagan holiday. But that’s not really accurate. As the pagan holiday of Samhain is on November 1st. But their celebrations did and still do, start at sunset on October 31st, on Samhain Eve. During the day on October 31st, the fires within the home are extinguished. Often families would engage in a good “fall” cleaning to clear out the old and make way for the new. Starting the winter months with fresh and clean household items. At sunset on October 31, clans or local villages begin the formal ceremonies of Samhain by lighting a giant bonfire. The people would gather around the fire to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. It was a method of giving the Gods and Goddesses their share of the previous years herd or crops. In addition these sacred fires were a big part of the cleansing of the old year and a method to prepare for the coming new year. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, and danced around the bonfire. Many of these dances told stories or played out the cycles of life and death or commemorated the cycle of Wheel of Life. These costumes were adorned for three primary reasons. The first was to honor the dead who were allowed to rise from the Otherworld. The Celts believed that souls were set free from the land of the dead during the eve of Samhain. Those that had been trapped in the bodies of animals were released by the Lord of the Dead and sent to their new incarnations. The wearing of these costumes signified the release of these souls into the physical world. Not all of these souls were honored and respected. Some were also feared as they would return to the physical world and destroy crops, hide livestock or ‘haunt’ the living who may have done them wrong. The second reason for these traditional costumes was to hide from these malevolent spirits to escape their trickery. The final representation was a method to honor the Celtic Gods and Goddesses of the harvest, fields and flocks. Giving thanks and homage to those deities who assisted the village or clan through the trials and tribulations of the previous year. And to ask for their favor during the coming year and the harsh winter months that were approaching. In addition to celebrations and dance, it was believed that this thin veil between the physical world and the Otherworld provided extra energy for communications between the living and the dead. With these communications, Druid Priests, and Celtic Shamans would attempted to tell the fortunes of individual people through a variety of methods. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter. These psychic readings would be conducted with a variety of divination tools. Such as throwing bones, or casting the Celtic Ogham. There is some historical evidence that additional tools of divination were also used. Most of this comes from writings recorded by Roman invaders, but there are stories of reading tea leaves, rocks and twigs, and even simple spiritual communications that today we’d call Channeling. Some historians have suggested that these early people were the first to use tiles made from wood and painted with various images which were the precursor to Tarot Cards. There’s no real evidence to support this, but the ‘story’ of these tiles has lingered for centuries. When the community celebration was over, each family would take a torch or burning ember from the sacred bonfire and return to their own home. The home fires that has been extinguished during the day were re-lit by the flame of the sacred bonfire to help protect the dwelling and it’s inhabitants during the coming winter. These fires were kept burning night and day during the next several months. It was believed that if a home lost it’s fire, tragedy and troubles would soon follow. With the hearth fires lit, the families would place food and drink outside their doors. This was done to appease the roaming spirits who might play tricks on the family. The Romans began to conquer the Celtic territories. By A.D. 43 they had succeeded in claiming the majority of the Celtic lands. They ruled for approximately four hundred years combining or influencing many Celtic traditional celebrations with their own. Two Roman holidays were merged with Samhain.

  1. Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead.
  2. Pomona’s Day of Honoring, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain probably explains the tradition of “bobbing” for apples that is practiced today on Halloween.

Samhain to HalloweenWith the coming of Christianity in the 800s AD, the early Church in England tried to Christianize the old Celtic festivals. Pope Boniface IV designated the 1st of November as “All Saints Day,” honoring saints and martyrs. He also decreed October 31 as “All Hallows Eve”, that eventually became Hallow’een. Scholars today widely accept that the Pope was attempting to replace the earlier Celtic pagan festival with a church-sanctioned holiday. As this Christian holiday spread, the name evolved as well. Also called All-hallows Eve or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints’ Day). 200 years later, in 1000 AD, the church made November 2 All Souls’ Day, a day to honor the dead. It is celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels, and devils. Together, the three celebrations, the eve of All Saints’, All Saints’, and All Souls’ day, are called Hallowmas.


Funny Facebook Frankenstorm~isms

Friends, believe me when I say there is not much funny about our latest natural disaster here in the U.S.

This morning when I woke up, I checked in with my friends and family all over the east coast on Facebook.  Reading the various posts from everyone, thankfully all of my peeps were good.  Hopefully, you and yours are as well.

One friend in particular I was especially worried about, as he lives right in the heart of NYC.  Throughout the storm, in typical John fashion, he posted various updates on what he was doing, eating, drinking etc.

Here are some of his posts:

“I’ll bet you a million dollars all the local liqueur stores in NYC are stripped bare at this point!!”

“Ooh girlfriend that wind’s-a-kickin’ up already….”

“Okay I’m bored already. I think I want to go out and play with boys in the middle of the storm. Any suggestions?”

“How’s about that broken crane dangling 90 stories above 57th St?”

“Eyewitness News just told me it could be til maybe Wednesday before the subways are up and running again. What the hell? Maybe I should have bought two bottles of Jameson instead of just one.”

“Okay every weatherman on TV right now is having a major hard-on.”

“I just saw some crazy little queen dressed in a short jade green kimono and matching hot pants doing twirls down Ludlow St and taking pictures. I shit you not.”           BTW It should be noted he’s not a bigot, he’s proudly gay himself.

Easy as Can Be Bread Machine Bread by King Arthur Flour

This is an excellent and easy recipe for homemade bread machine bread.  I always use King Arthur Flour for the best results and follow my basic bread machine steps 1. lukewarm liquid first / butter room temperature  2. flour second 3. salt, sugar and yeast separated and added last

For large (1 1/2lb.- 2lb.) machine
1 cup lukewarm water
1/3 cup lukewarm milk
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
3 3/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All Purpose Flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

For small (1 lb.) machine
2/3 cup lukewarm water
1/4 cup lukewarm milk
2 tablespoons butter or margine
2 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
5 teaspoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon active dry yeast

Put all of the ingredients into your machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Program the machine for basic white bread, and press Start.

Salted Caramel Cookie Bites by King Arthur Flour

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I only use King Arthur Flour.  It’s always the best quality and all of my baked goods turn out beautifully.

Their site is a plethora of great information, cool wares to buy and of course… recipes.

These little gems have bacon, salt and caramel!  YUM!



Cookie base


  • 1/2 cup block caramel, cut into 1/4″ pieces*
  • 1/4 cup chopped toasted almonds + 1 teaspoon fleur de sel or other coarse/flaky salt; OR 1/4 cup chopped smoked almonds; OR 2 strips very crisp bacon, crumbled
  • *Or substitute prepared caramel sauce


1) Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease (or line with paper cups) a mini muffin pan or a filled teacakes pan.
2) In a large bowl, beat together the sugar, butter, salt, vanilla, and flavoring until well blended.
3) Add the baking powder and egg and beat until fluffy.
4) Mix in the flour.
5) Use a rounded teaspoon scoop to fill the 20 to 24 cups of your mini muffin pan. If you’re using a filled teacakes pan, use two rounded teaspoonfuls per cup.
6) Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes, until browned around the edges.
7) Top with the caramel pieces, return to the oven, and bake for 1 to 2 minutes more — just until the caramel melts. If you’re using caramel sauce, skip this step; simply drizzle it on just before serving.
8) Sprinkle the chopped almonds or crumbled bacon over the cookies while they’re warm, so the toppings will stick. Top with a tiny pinch of salt.
9) Cool in the pan for about 15 minutes, then gently transfer to a cooling rack.
10) Repeat with the remaining batter and toppings.
Yield: 36 cookies from a mini-muffin pan; 18 from a filled teacakes pan.

The Enchanted Forest ~ Maryland’s Ghost Park

B&W Photos by  ~ Opacity

When The Mr. and I were first married we moved to Ellicott City, Maryland from Salem, Massachusetts.  I was out exploring our new town and came across this shopping plaza with the most unusual vintage mascot guarding the gate.  Old King Cole.

The plaza was called The Enchanted Forest.

I remember feeling like I had just found one of the neatest things ever and thinking, “How cool!  I’m so getting groceries here!”

What I did not know what that it was next to the second oldest amusement park in the U.S. The Enchanted Forest.

The Mr. grew up around that area, but apparently had never gone to this park, however his younger sister Meg’s had fond memories of the park in its heyday, prior to its closing in 1988.

Since the park has been closed for years, the crumbling buildings have taken on a whole new life, post fairy tales and Mother Goose. Naturally it has become a hot spot for  curious teenagers and photographers, albeit illegal to enter the park.

The good folks in Ellicott City are trying very hard to preserve what remains of the park.   A lot of the park decorations have been pillaged and sold at auctions, Ebay, and tag sales sadly.  They are trying to recover what they can now, no questions asked.


Opacity has a lovely array of beautifully creepy black and white photos that they took of The Enchanted Forest.   In fact their whole site is pretty amazing.