I haven’t been making much time to write up recipes and posts, but I have been cooking up a storm. We’ve had over 100″ (yes, that’s right) of snow here and on snowy days all I want to do is hole up in my house and cook! I’ll be posting some new recipes soon.
Here’s what I’ve been up to …
I’ve been driving. My commute from the burbs to the city is now 2 hours in and 1.5 hours out. After working a full work-week I’m too tired to write long posts. Essentially, I’m “working” 60 hours a week. sigh.
I’ve been shoveling and maintaining paths to our chicken coop and front door. The plow guy can only do so much. The walkways and front porch is our job and for a month it was quite a job. On a positive note, the chickens have been consistently laying eggs all winter! I wasn’t expecting that at all. The eggs are such a gift. My girls turn a year old on April 9th and I plan to give them some special treats from us on that day. They love strawberries, tomatoes, oatmeal, and cabbage. Maybe a special salad?
Shoveling out the beehives hasn’t been fun either. Walking to the hives in four foot deep snow isn’t easy, but the hives are dug out and on a warm day the girls can take some cleansing flights easily enough.
I’ve been making bone broth every weekend to sip during the week. Bone broth is easy, rich in protein, minerals, soothing to the gut, and great for the skin. We sip it in place of tea. If you have GERD, Leaky Gut, or an upset tummy drink bone broth every day. You can make it from slow cooking or using a pressure cooker. I roast a chicken or brown some beef bones and then put them in the pot with water, an onion, a few carrots, celery, and a garlic clove or two. If you use a slow cooker or stove-top you can plan to let it simmer for 12-24 hours. In a pressure cooker it will be ready in 1-2 hours. The longer you cook the bones the more minerals you will pull from the bones. Adding a tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar will help leach the minerals quicker, too.
I’ve been creating new tinctures for my GingerSage Botanicals herbal business. I have a new Rose Elixir, Damiana-Rose Tincture, and a Hawaiian Awa (kava kava) Tincture. I have more items for sale so pop over and check it out. I sell a lot out of my home, but I do ship. Click on the link to shop: www.etsy.com/shop/GingerSageBotanicals
I’ve been planning out a French potager garden. I want to expand our perennial beds to include more vegetables, interspersing them with the perennial flowering plants is a great way to create an edible garden. It will be beautiful and practical.
I’ve been reading and studying nature religions, specifically the Cabot Tradition of Witchcraft. I am honored to have studied under Laurie Cabot, the Official Witch of Salem and I look forward to deepening my studies in the future. You can learn more about it here: www. lauriecabot.com.
See Laurie on YouTube.
Well, that’s all for now! The bone broth needs straining and containing. The banana bread must come out of the oven, and the fire stoked. I know spring is coming, but for now it’s still winter.
Until next time …
Make your own tea. I mix equal parts organic chamomile flowers, organic rose petals, and organic lemon balm. This blend is fragrant and helps ease stress and anxiety. Sip during the day and before bed to help you sleep well. Combine the herbs in equal parts in a sealed jar and store out of sunlight. To make a cup, use one rounded teaspoon for 8 ounces of water. Steep for 3-5 minutes. Strain and add sweetener of choice, preferably raw, local honey.
I didn’t set out to create my own cassoulet recipe, but when I started to prep for the recipe I pulled off the internet I soon realized how off the recipe was. I knew it wouldn’t turn out right – the recipe quantities just didn’t add up. It was then that I decided that I would make my own cassoulet. I chucked the internet recipe in the trash, got out my notepad, and started working my recipe.
The star of a cassoulet is the duck leg confit. I couldn’t find fresh, local duck legs to make my own duck confit. D’Artagnan sells their packaged duck breasts at small markets and at Whole Foods, but not fresh duck legs. Fresh are nearly impossible to find. And so, after some frustrated sighs, I decided that I would put my duck leg search on hold and start searching for an online source. I quickly found THE duck website: D’Artagnan. They sell hard-to-find game meats, source organic and natural, and they deliver quickly and inexpensively. Perfect. I ordered their duck confit, garlic pork sausage, duck sausage, and duck fat. Shipping only cost $8.95 for my entire order and it arrived packed on ice in only two days.
My family loved this dish and I think you will too. I served it with a side of braised kale with garlic.
4 duck legs confit
1# Great Northern white beans
½# duck sausage, sliced into 1” pieces
½# pork garlic sausage, sliced into 1” pieces
1 yellow onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 carrots, peeled and sliced into 3/4” pieces
2 tomatoes, diced
3C chicken stock
¼C duck fat
1t dried thyme
sea salt to taste
fresh parsley to garnish
Crumb crust: 1C fresh breadcrumbs (I made mine with crackers) + 1T melted duck fat. Do NOT use store-bought breadcrumbs here.
Directions: Soak the Great Northern beans overnight. After 24 hours put the beans in a large stockpot and cover with water at least 3” above the beans. Add 1 tablespoon of salt to the water. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to medium-high to keep them on a low boil for about 45 minutes. The beans should be tender, but still a bit firm; they will continue to cook in the cassoulet and you don’t want them to fall apart because they were overcooked. Drain the beans, and pour into your cassoulet pan or large Dutch oven.
In a large, cast iron skillet, brown the duck and pork sausages in half of the duck fat. Remove the sausage from the pan and add it to the beans. Make sure you scrape off all the burnt sausage bits from the bottom of your skillet – that’s where all the flavor is. Add the grease drippings, too. It will keep your cassoulet moist. Add the diced onion, minced garlic, chopped carrots, diced tomatoes, thyme, chicken stock, and all but 1T of duck fat to the beans and sausage. Place the 4 duck confit legs into the mixture. If the mixture isn’t covered by the chicken stock, add just enough to cover.
Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat to simmer. Cover, and let simmer for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the duck legs and place them on a cutting board to cool down. Keep the cassoulet on simmer while you pick the duck meat off the bone. Return the duck meat to the cassoulet, discard the bones, and continue simmering on low heat, covered, for another 1.5 hours. If the cassoulet looks too soupy, take the cover off while it simmers. The stock will cook down and the flavors will become more concentrated, but be watchful so you don’t let it get dry.
Preheat oven to 375°.
After simmering on low heat for two hours on the stovetop, place the cassoulet into the oven with the cover off. Check periodically to see if the cassoulet is getting too dry. If it is too dry, add a bit more chicken stock.
Bake the cassoulet for an hour at 375 degrees. While the cassoulet is baking, prepare the crust, and have a well-deserved glass of wine.
To make the crumbs, place 2 cups of saltines or chowder crackers in a baggie. Roll over the baggie with a rolling pin until the crumbs are coarse. Pour the crumbs into a small bowl and stir in the leftover tablespoon of melted duck fat. After the cassoulet has baked for an hour, remove it from the oven and top with the crumbs.
Bake for another 30-45 minutes or until the crust is a nice, golden brown.
From 2011 when I first became a beekeeper, reposted here and taken from my previous blog on iWeb. BEFORE I LOST MY TWO HIVES FROM MOSQUITO SPRAYING IN MY TOWN. See addendum at bottom.
I had been thinking about keeping honey bees for some time now, and this winter I decided to go for it. What was I waiting for? (I’m not good at waiting anyway) Because of CCD, Colony Collapse Disorder, mosquito spraying, and increased consumer pesticide use the honey bees need our help. Since 2006, honey bees have been mysteriously disappearing. There are many theories out there, mostly related to heavy pesticide use on big, monoculture farms but no one is completely sure what the cause is. However, scientists agree that something has to be done to save the honey bee. One-third of the food we eat is pollinated by the honey bee. One-third! It’s very alarming to think what would happen to our food supply if we didn’t have the honey bee. I also learned that almond growers in California utilize migratory beekeepers to pollinate, using 1.3 million colonies of bees (HALF of all honey bees in the US) that are shipped there every year.
“If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live.” ~ Albert Einstein
I recently watched a new documentary, narrated by Ellen Page, titled Vanishing of The Bees. I highly recommend you get your hands on this or find a local screening and see what is happening all over the world. It’s heartbreaking. And scary! One hopeful part of the movie is learning that Germany and France banned the use of the pesticide Clothianidin (a neonicotinoid) and within a year the honeybee colonies began to come back. Not so in the United States.
I always thought I needed acreage and farmland to keep bees, but I was wrong. There are many backyard and city beekeepers. Most are self-proclaimed “closet” beekeepers. And since lifting the ban on beekeeping, New York now has a high, and growing, number of roof-top beehives. At a recent Essex County Beekeepers Association (ECBA for short) meeting I was told that there were 1,000 new beekeepers last year in Massachusetts. Impressive and hopeful numbers for sure. You probably have beekeepers in your neighborhood and don’t know it. Beekeepers usually don’t advertise their hives because neighbors are misinformed and can get anxious. But there’s no need to be anxious. Be thankful. We need the bees. Your trees, flowers, and vegetable garden need them. They selflessly work themselves to death tending to the needs of the colony. And aren’t we lucky to get our plants and trees pollinated and receive health-giving honey and beeswax in return?
Honey bees are often lumped into the same category as wasps and hornets. Yellowjackets, Bald-faced hornets, and other species of bees do not have barbs on their stingers and can, and will, sting you repeatedly if you get too close to them or their nest. My husband was a target of nasty Bald-face hornets last year when he accidentally disturbed their basketball-sized paper nest in one of our bushes. Wasps and hornets are more aggressive than honey bees and they are omnivores, too. Wasps and hornets are the unwanted visitors that join your backyard barbecue and eat your grilled food and sip your sweet tea. A honey bee will NOT do that. They’re too busy finding nectar.
“That which we experience within ourselves only at a time when our hearts develop love is actually the very same thing that is present as a substance in the entire beehive. The whole beehive is permeated with life based on love. In many ways the bees renounce love, and thereby this love develops within the entire beehive.” ~ Rudolph Steiner
Some interesting and little-known facts about honeybees:
A honey bee will only sting to defend the hive or itself.
A honey bee will die after stinging because their stinger has barbs. Their insides will come out as they try to fly away because the barbed stinger is stuck in your skin.
Only the worker bee (a daughter of the queen) will sting. Queens don’t leave the hive to defend it. Drones don’t have stingers.
A hive consists of a Queen, female worker bees, and a few drones.
Drones don’t work, they have to be fed by the worker bees, and their only job in life is to mate with a Queen (if they’re lucky enough to find one). If a drone does mates he quickly dies because his mating parts get stuck in the Queen.
A swarm of honey bees is docile. They are surrounding and protecting the queen while the scout bees look for a good home.
The temperature inside a hive, around the cluster, is a constant 93°.
On a hot day, worker bees will position themselves just inside and right outside the entrance and fan their wings to create airflow, much like a fan.
Honey bees come out of the hive about 8-10′ and then they fly up, up, up over an area of up to 5 miles to find the best nectar and pollen sources.
Honey bees return home in the evening.
Honey bees have species fidelity – they find one type of flower and will stick with it. Other types of wasps and bumblebees will fly from flower to flower no matter what the source.
A worker honey bee produced a few droplets of honey in her short six-week lifetime.
A Queen honey bee can live up to 5 years and lays about 1,500 eggs a day during the warmer months.
People have been collecting honey for 10,000 years. Cave paintings from Spain depict ancient beekeepers climbing to get to the hive.
The word “honeymoon” comes from medieval Europe when a traditional gift of honey mead, enough to last one moon cycle (a month), was given as a gift to newly married couples. It literally was a moon of honey.
Honey was once used as currency.
Honey is used on burns for its healing qualities.
Honey is antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and full of antioxidants. Honey contains enzymes, minerals, and vitamins.
Diabetics can enjoy honey.
Honey is hygroscopic. It attracts moisture, making it great for your skin.
The Backyard Beekeeper – Revised and Updated: An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Keeping Bees in Your Yard and Garden, by Kim Flottum
The Backyard Beekeeper’s Honey Handbook, by Kim Flottum
Honey Bee Hobbyist, by Norman Gary, Ph.D.
The Beekeeper’s Handbook, by Diana Sammataro and Alphonse Avitabile
Beekeeping for Dummies, 2nd Edition, by Howland Blackiston
Bees, by Rudolph Steiner
Wisdom of the Bees, by Erik Berrevoets (biodynamic beekeeping)
Addendum – 2014
** Watch Harvard Professor Dr. Lu discuss CCD and pesticide use in MA with Essex County Beekeepers HERE, courtesy of Marty Jessel, Essex County beekeeper. PS: Essex County has the highest level of neonicotinoids, the systemic and cumulative pesticides that are known to kill honey bees and other pollinators.
** Hear Dr. Lu on The Neonicotinoid View: Harvard’s Dr Lu Discusses Pesticide Exposure & Health Risk HERE.
** GARDENER’S BEWARE! Friends of the Earth sampled plants from box stores. Your bee-friendly garden may not be so friendly after all. Please watch HERE!
** HERE is a list from the Center For Food Safety of common products that consumers can purchase that contain bee-killing neonicotinoids. You may not even be aware that what you’re putting on your trees, roses, lawn or garden is creating a toxic wasteland for pollinators.
There is growing group of beekeepers and concerned citizens working for change at the city, state, and country level. Things will change if we work together. If you are interested and willing to join in efforts to protect pollinators, please contact me.
After a very fun and exciting trip to Alta Ski Area for a family Christmas vacation, I am back renewed and ready to focus on what 2014 has in store. In 2014, my husband Todd and I will turn 47. He’ll have you know that yes, I. am. older. On June 10, we will celebrate our 25th anniversary. The blessings and love of our lives, our daughters, will turn 24 and 23. What?? Sadly, our Retrievers will continue to age quicker than we will. Mischievous and sneaky Ginger will turn 14 and needy, loyal Sage will turn 7. In 2014, I’ll have lived through 30 New England hurricanes and about 7 big blizzards. But, if you didn’t live through the Blizzard of ’78 you don’t know what a blizzard really is. In 2014, I’ll have worked at paying jobs for 32 years. In 2014, my grandmother Margaret will turn 91 and her sister, my great-aunt Mary, will turn 101. Sometimes it seems that time stands still, but thankfully it moves ever onward and old hurts and worries leave. And so … this June, I’ll have marked 4 years post-accident; in 2010, we experienced our daughter Kelsey nearly die of a car accident and survive, not just survive and be OK, but survive and THRIVE. Miracles do happen. In 2014 and beyond, our daughter Kate will be reminiscing about her month-long Grand Canyon rafting trip with our Three Rivers Whitewater family and inspiring us to live fully in 2014.
Cheers to more friends, more family, more food, and more fun!
So maybe it’s the vegetarian diet I decided to try mid-December (it’s sticking … so far), or the juicing I’ve been doing the past twelve days, but I am feeling energized, focused, and excited for what 2014 holds. Did I say vegetarian? eek. I hesitated, slightly, to write that I’m living a vegetarian lifestyle. It’s a big step and HUGE change for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love the taste of meat. I know how to cook it well, and I know how to celebrate with it. Over the past 25 years I centered many meals around it. And friends and family know that I’m passionate about pasture-raised, organic, and sustainable farming practices. What I struggle with, always struggled with, is the ethical dilemma of eating dead animals.
The take away?
I’m trying to live out my beliefs.
At times, I may fail. I may crave a Big Green Egg grilled grass-finished burger or a piece of my crispy, fried chicken and decide to eat meat. I will do so with gratitude.
I am a vegetarian one day at a time (it’s been 30 days), and for now that’s OK.
I feel great.
What’s inspiring me these days?
If you haven’t already watched the documentary “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead” with Joe Cross I urge you to do it. It’s a moving documentary of Joe’s road to health through juicing. It got me to buy a juicer and commit to a 15-day reboot. I’m on day 12 and may go longer than 15 days.
Another documentary worth finding is “Vegucated”. From their website: “Part sociological experiment and part adventure comedy, Vegucated follows three meat- and cheese-loving New Yorkers who agree to adopt a vegan diet for six weeks. Lured by tales of weight lost and health regained, they begin to uncover the hidden sides of animal agriculture that make them wonder whether solutions offered in films like “Food, Inc.“ go far enough.”
and yet another documentary. “Hungry For Change,” is about the food and diet industry and how it’s keeping us fat – overfed and undernourished to be exact.
the NOFA Conference I attended January 11. NOFA stands for Northeast Organic Farming Association. I’ve wanted to go to one of their conferences for years. This year, I decided to go. I went to a class on backyard chickens and kitchen medicine. Being an avid user of herbal remedies, homeopathic medicine, and aromatherapy, I thought the kitchen medicine class would be great and it was. In just two hours I saw all my thoughts about food as medicine, eating with the seasons, and using herbs put together into an informative course.
herbal medicine. I’ve been using herbal remedies for 25 years. Did you know that herbs have been used as medicine since the time of our paleolithic ancestors? Paleo humans ate a mostly herbivore diet that was occasionally interspersed with the meat of a hunted animal. There are cave paintings depicting, what most scholars believe to be, a shaman with antlers. Herbalism is ancient. When I think of herbalism, I think of a shaman, a wise woman, an Ayurvedic practitioner, a Chinese medicine doctor, and Hippocrates (he was an herbalist).
Some common herbal remedies or teas you may already know and use are: ginseng (energy), gingko (brain health and circulation), echinacea (immune support), chamomile (eases aches and pains, promotes relaxation), lavender (antibacterial, aphrodisiac, ease headaches), and St. John’s Wort (eases aches, pains, and depression). Herbalism is a skill that is passed down through generations, but since I don’t come from a long line of shamans I will be getting my education from Herbal Academy of New England in Bedford, Massachusetts. They have a team of experts (including clinical herbalists and doctors) ready to support and encourage new students.
Check them out! In addition to information on herbal medicine they have culinary and herbal recipes, wellness articles, and DIY projects. I’ll be guest blogging for them, too. I’m very excited to be part of their organization.
Interested in modern herbalism?
Sign up for their Online Intermediate Herbal Course and join me!
So… you made it all the way through my post. Thank you! And here’s a recipe for you on a cold, winter day when your body and soul needs some warming.
Butternut Squash Soup
Makes a giant stockpot
1 large butternut squash, peeled and chopped into large chunks
4 large carrots, chopped
2 fennel bulbs, sliced or chopped into small pieces
1 large yellow onion, sliced or chopped into small pieces
64 oz. low sodium vegetable broth or homemade stock
3T EVOO or coconut oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1T coarse sea salt
1″ piece of fresh ginger, peeled
1t whole peppercorns
2-3t hot curry powder
6 shakes of cayenne pepper
fresh cilantro for sprinkling on top
Directions: In a large stockpot, sauté the onion, garlic, and fennel for 10 minutes. Do not let it brown. Add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a low boil, cover, and cook for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.
Add the butternut squash, carrots, peppercorns, sea salt, curry, and cayenne pepper to the stockpot. Using a Microplane grater, grate the fresh ginger directly over the pot. Give it all a stir. If the squash in not covered by the stock, add enough water to cover, but not float. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a low boil and cover. Gently boil for 15 minutes or until the carrots and squash are soft.
Using a blender, scoop out the soup and blend in batches to the desired consistency. Return to a different stockpot and keep warm. Note: Using a stick blender works great for this soup and is easier to clean than your blender.
Salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with cilantro and enjoy.
Kitchen Medicine or WHY this soup so good for you:
butternut squash – fiber, potassium, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, beta-carotene that converts to Vitamin A to protect the heart and eyes
carrots – LOADED with beta-carotone that converts to Vitamin A to protect the heart and eyes. From WebMD: “Carrots were first grown as medicine, not food, for a variety of ailments. Carrots can be traced back about 5,000 years through historical documents and paintings.”
fennel – relieves flatulence and colic, stimulates the digestion and appetite.
onions and garlic – antioxidant, stimulate immune responses, reduce inflammation
ginger – aids digestion, antimicrobial, anti-oxidant, promotes circulation, diaphoretic
peppercorns – aids digestion, diaphoretic, diuretic, anti-oxidant, antibacterial
cayenne – stimulates blood flow, rheumatic pains, strengthens the heart and arteries
cilantro – anti-oxidant, lowers blood sugar, in large doses it can aid in heavy metal chelation
sea salt – 84 trace minerals and elements such as iodine, iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, and zinc.
I love the crispy and savory crust on top of the sweet broccoli and squash. This dish is gluten-free, thanks to Ian’s Gluten-Free Panko Breadcrumbs. Any vegetable or combination of vegetables will work well with this recipe, but choose your vegetables with similar densities or you’ll end up with mushy broccoli and hard carrots.
Winter Broccoli and Squash Gratin
Serves 4 as a vegetarian main dish or 6 as a side dish
2 heads of broccoli (about 1 ½ pounds) chopped into florets the same size as the squash
¾ C grated Parmesan cheese
¼ C EVOO
¼ C sour cream, whisked with 1T of cream or milk
3 garlic cloves
Directions: Preheat oven to 400°. Lightly butter a 3-quart casserole dish. In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, capers, and EVOO. Over the top, grate the three cloves of garlic, using a fine grater, over the crumbs. Stir all ingredients and combine thoroughly.
Steam the butternut squash for 5 minutes or until just tender. Drain, and place in the casserole dish. Steam the broccoli for 5 minutes or until crisp tender, give them a cold water rinse, drain again, and add the broccoli to the squash in the casserole dish. Evenly spread the sour cream & cream mixture on top of the broccoli and squash. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture on top.
Bake (using the convection option if you have it) for 15 minutes or until golden brown. If your gratin is not brown after 15 minutes, broil on high for 3-5 minutes. Do not over bake.
Lately, Friday nights have gone retro – back to our early years of marriage when we used to spend Friday night date nights at home. We’d put our babies to bed, I’d cook a quick meal or we’d get takeout, and we’d watch a movie curled up together on the sofa. Date night at home has evolved. We don’t do take-out anymore and I like to create new cocktails and try out new recipes. Tonight, I recreated a favorite restaurant cocktail and made this farro dish. It has a nutty, heartiness that’s perfect for a chilly, fall night. The farro is served hot, but I think it could be just as tasty if it was served cold as a salad.
Farro with Brussels Sprouts and Pistachios, adapted from Food and Style NY
Ingredients for the farro:
1t sea salt
4 garlic cloves, peeled and whole
1 bay leaf
1C farro (pearled barley is a good substitute)
Ingredients for the Brussels sprouts:
12oz. Brussels sprout, trimmed and sliced lengthwise in ⅛” slices
1 large shallot or 3 small shallots, sliced into ⅛” slices
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
⅓C shelled and salted pistachios
¼-½C reserved cooking liquid from farro
sea salt and pepper to taste
Farro directions: Bring the 6 cups of water to a boil. Add the salt, garlic, bay leaf and farro. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, until tender but al denté. Drain well, remove the garlic and bay leaf, and reserve ½ cup of the cooking liquid.
Brussels sprouts directions: Heat a large non-stick skilled to medium-high heat. Add the butter. As soon as the butter is melted, add the olive oil. Stir well and add the Brussels sprouts and shallots. Sauté for about 7 minutes until golden-brown, stirring only from time to time. Add the garlic and sauté for an additional minute or two, until the garlic has released its flavor but has not browned.
In a large serving bowl, combine the farro, Brussels sprouts, and pistachios. Season to taste. Serve as a vegetarian main dish or as a side dish.
After a day spent cleaning the yard and the house this was just what my husband and I needed. We ate this cheesy, comfort food by the warmth of our fireplace. It was comfort food on a fall evening. You can substitute gluten-free pasta, but I don’t recommend it – the pasta can get too mushy. Stick to regular Prince pasta and you can’t go wrong.
Ingredients for crumb crust:
1 sleeve of low-fat butter crackers (Nabisco, they’re crispier)
3T unsalted butter (Kerrygold), cut into 6 pieces
1t sea salt
Ingredients for cheese sauce and pasta:
1# elbow macaroni (I like the good old standby Prince brand)
5T unsalted butter (Kerrygold)
3T dry mustard powder
1t sea salt
1t white pepper
½t cayenne pepper (or more)
5C whole milk
8oz. Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (I like Cabot)
8oz. cheddar cheese, shredded (Kerrygold or Cabot extra sharp)
½ of an organic butternut squash, cubed, about 3-4cups
Directions for crumb topping: Put the crackers in a baggy and using a meat tenderizer mallet, crush the crackers into crumbs. Melt the butter and set aside. In a small bowl, add the cracker crumbs and melted butter. Stir to combine. Set aside.
Directions for the cheese sauce and pasta: Preheat oven to 400°.
Steam the cubed butternut squash for 3-5 minutes until barely tender. It will continue to cook in the oven so don’t overcook it.
Boil the pasta just shy of al denté. Drain and set aside.
In a large pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat and add the flour, dry mustard, and cayenne. Whisk well to combine. Continue whisking until mixture becomes fragrant and deepens in color, about one minute. Gradually which in milk; bring mixture to a boil, whisking constantly (mixture must reach full boil to fully thicken). Reduce heat to medium and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened to consistency of heavy cream, about 5 minutes. Add the salt and pepper. Turn heat off and whisk in the cheeses until melted. Add the cooked pasta and butternut squash. Stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Pour into a 3-quart casserole dish. Top with the crumbs. Bake on the top rack for 15 minutes until the topping is browned. Garnish with fresh parsley sprinkled on top.