We have been keeping busy around here and enjoying the wonderful Fall weather. Fall has always been my favorite time of year. I love the changing colors of the leaves, the many different varieties of squash that finally come into season, the smell of freshly baked apple pie, and all the cute little pumpkins that begin popping up on porches all over the neighborhood. Not to mention, the Columbus Day Sales are awesome. Matthew and I picked out some new kicks.
Harvest season is in full swing and all the local farms offer a variety of fun activities for adults and kids alike. I took Matthew to one of my favorite local farms where they had an entire "Pumpkintown" mini-theme park set up for toddlers, complete with a wide variety of inflatable structures, a corn maze, a haunted house, and free piping hot apple cider. At first, Matthew was very apprehensive about partaking in all the inflatable fun. However, once I pushed him into the "pumpkin jump," he began to perk up. Then I could not get him out when his time was up. I had to crawl in there after him. It is not easy to chase him around in an inflatable pumpkin that was not built to support your body weight. I felt like the whole thing was going to collapse.
Then we headed to a gigantic inflatable slide. The kids were instructed to hold onto ropes and pull themselves up to the top. The attendant thought Matthew was too little to climb up all by himself, but I insisted that he let him give it a shot. I had taken Matthew to a mini rock climbing wall a few weeks previously and he did fantastically well. He made it all the way to the top of the wall fairly easily. Anyway, he was not afraid of climbing up to the top of this slide. Slowly but surely, he gripped and pulled his way to the very top where he triumphantly sat, waving and smiling. Obviously, he was very proud of his achievement.
However, when it came time for him to come down the slide...he wasn't so sure. He begged for me to come get him, but I told him that the only way he was coming down was via the slide. He finally went for it. You can almost see the terror on his face. He was all smiles at the bottom.
I tried to get a few photos with the props they had scattered throughout the farm. Matthew did not understand the concept...
...Finally I got him to smile and poke his head through by playing peek-a-boo.
Matthew's favorite part of the whole outing (besides eating popcorn and drinking cider) was the corn maze. He was all about taking the lead through the maze. Every time he led us to a dead end, he would cry "OH NO!" and then giggle, turn around, and try another route. He was actually amazingly good at figuring his way through it. He must have a built-in GPS (unlike both his Mother and his Father).
Afterwards, we had to make our way through the market and buy some fresh produce. I got a little overly excited by the beautiful butternut squash they had for a mere $0.15/pound. I ended up buying a bushel. Which means that I came home with about 25 perfect butternut squashes. Which means that I will be making a lot of recipes featuring butternut squash.
This pizza recipe was inspired by a couple of recipes that I have spotted throughout the web over the past couple of years. I combined my favorite elements from a couple of them and came up with the result below. It was a divine, delicious, and different pizza (don't you just love the alliteration?). The sweetness from the butternut squash paired perfectly with the creamy, mild flavor of the roasted garlic white sauce. The Parmesan added a wonderful salty element to the whole thing. Next time, I will probably scatter some bacon pieces over the top (I adore the combination of butternut squash and crispy bacon). This would also be wonderful with some toasted walnuts scattered on top as a garnish. If you are not a fan of thyme, try using some fresh rosemary or sage. Leave it out all together if you are skeptical...but this is one seriously tasty dish.
Even Matthew ate it. Not that his opinion matters much...he also tried cat food for the first time yesterday and apparently found it quite tasty.
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
3/4 cup milk
6 tablespoons Parmesan
1-2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
For the Pizza:
1 recipe of your favorite pizza dough
1-2 pounds Butternut Squash, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 head of garlic, papery skins removed from the outside and the top cut off
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
4-5 slices thick bacon, cooked and crumbled (optional)
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan Cheese
1-2 cups mozzarella
To prepare the squash and garlic, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. On a baking sheet, toss the squash with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Place the garlic head on the sheet and drizzle some olive oil over the top. Roast for 15-20 minutes, or until the squash is fork-tender. Remove the squash and continue roasting the garlic until it is soft and fragrant (about 10 minutes more). When cool enough to handle, pop the softened garlic cloves out of their skins and mash into a paste with a fork. Set aside while you prepare the white sauce.
Place a pizza stone in your oven and set the temperature for 500 degrees. Let the oven preheat with the stone for at least 20 minutes before placing the assembled pizza inside to bake.
Melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium high heat in a small saucepan. Add the flour and whisk continuously until golden brown and bubbly, about 1 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk in a steady stream. Continue to whisk the mixture until it thickens to the consistency of heavy cream. Remove from the heat and whisk in the cheese and thyme. Whisk in half of the garlic mash. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
To prepare the pizza, spread the white sauce over the top of your prepared pizza dough leaving a 1-inch border. Scatter the red onion, bacon (if using), and butternut squash over the top. Sprinkle with the cheeses. Carefully slide the pizza onto the hot pizza stone and bake for 8-12 minutes (depending on your dough recipe) or until the cheese is melted and the crust has browned. Let stand for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.