Butternut squash burgers (Vegan, Gluten-free)

Eating healthy... Butternut squash burgers...Delicious, vegan and gluten-free

I have a confession: I love butternut squash–but I hate prepping it–and sometimes I pick the less budget friendly option of buying it prepped for me. I’m not ashamed and it probably is actually more budget friendly, since it likely saves me the cost of a visit to the emergency room (my knife skills could use some work).

However, if you want to make this tasty burger and buy a whole butternut squash and prep it yourself, check out these tips for peeling and cutting a butternut squash (I’ve also found zapping it in the microwave for a couple of minutes before starting helps with the cutting process).

This burger recipe also features spinach and quinoa, making it a vitamin A and C powerhouse to keep your immune system humming and protein and fiber to keep your tummy satisfied, helping you stick to your resolution to eat healthier, if you’re into that sort of thing. If you pair these burgers with a small salad and some seasoned, roasted potatoes, you’ll have the perfect winter meal.

So, get your food processor out (unless you have a sharp knife and really strong biceps, it’s essential for this recipe) and make a batch of these today. They freeze well, so you can also have some on hand for a quick lunch.

Butternut Squash Burgers

Makes six, medium-sized patties

2 c. shredded butternut squash

2 c. baby spinach, loosely packed

1/2 c. chopped onion

1 c. great northern or navy beans

2 c. cooked quinoa

1/2 t. salt

1/2 t. dried rosemary

1/2 t. dried thyme

In your food processor, combine squash, beans, onion and spices and blend until smooth. Add spinach and pulse until spinach is finely chopped and blended into the mixture. Transfer mixture to a mixing bowl and blend in quinoa. Cover bowl, put in the refrigerator and allow mixture to chill for at least an hour.

After mixture has chilled, heat oven to 375 degrees. Form mixture into six patties, placing each on a non-stick cookie sheet. Bake patties for about 40 minutes, turning over once about halfway through the cooking time.

(Cooking note: These patties are very moist; if the burger will not easily release when it’s time to turn, it’s not ready to be turned over. If you force it, you will have a crumbly mess. Not that this ever happened to me during my cooking process…)


We want you (for product development)! What’s your favorite scent for handcrafted soap & bath products?

What's your favorite handcrafted soap scent?

Last year was a big year for Emmet Street Creations! Not only did we have the Emmet Street Creations Etsy store in full effect, we took our show on the road, bringing our handcrafted soap and bath products to the Cleveland Bazaar!

When we were spiffing up the store after the holidays were over and getting organized, we took a look at what our most popular handcrafted soaps were. In case you were wondering, these were the top-selling Emmet Street Creations products in 2014:

Of course, these will still be stocked (at least, as long as Christine enjoys making them!) in the coming year, but as we plan our soap-making (and touring–good things are happening, more to come!) schedule for the coming year we want to keep things interesting and create some new products that you love just as much as you love your old favorites.

We have some new creations in the works (the pic above is a mango papaya soap that is on the curing rack), but inquiring minds want to know: What’s your favorite scent? What have you been hoping we’d carry in the Emmet Street Creations Etsy store? Please share in the comments or on Twitter or Facebook.

And, as always, thank you for your support! As we state in our company mission: Our greatest joy comes from creating handcrafted products that are fun, useful, beautiful and affordable. We strive to nourish your skin and to make your morning shower an event to look forward to, not just a chore to do before work.

Loofah soap experiment: Update #6

The loofah experiment: Update 5

I successfully picked, peeled, washed and dried two loofah before the snow started to fall here in Ohio. Sadly, the rest of the loofah didn’t dry out before the temperatures plummeted.

Soon, I’ll unveil the soap that I made with the loofah I was able to harvest. In the meantime, I thought I’d share this video to show what a loofah being peeled looks and sounds like. I’m thinking about using this as an audition piece for a sound effects technician on “The Walking Dead.”


Finding my religion: Worshipping at the biscuit altar

Tupelo Honey Cafe soul saving biscuits

On a recent trip to Knoxville, I got my first taste of real, made-from-scratch Southern biscuits. They have forever spoiled me from anything I can get around here (at least so far, maybe someone in the Cleveland food scene will see fit to remedy that). I also learned that my arrival was about two weeks too late: I missed the International Biscuit Festival, a celebration of the biscuit and its holy trinity: flour, fat and buttermilk.

Hot bread with a meal (or cold with a slab of meat inside for a portable lunch), in the form of a biscuit or a yeast roll, has long been a Southern staple. I grew up with yeast rolls (or cornbread) at meals at my Kentucky-raised grandma’s house, so I didn’t know of the magic of a scratch-made biscuit.

Crisp and flaky on the outside, moist on the inside and given a butter bath when removed from the oven, biscuits are the closest thing to heaven on earth.

In Knoxville, I was converted and have dedicated myself to spreading the gospel. My call-to-biscuit moment occurred at the Tupelo Honey Cafe, you can have your own by making a batch of their famous biscuits. For tips on perfecting your biscuit-making skills, check out their blog post about National Biscuit Month (where the recipe shared was shared).

Tupelo Honey Buttermilk Biscuits

Makes 10 biscuits

2 cups White Lily self-rising flour

1 tablespoon sugar

½ teaspoon salt

⅓ cup chilled shortening, cut into pieces

½ cup heavy cream

1 cup buttermilk

Melted butter

Preheat the oven to 425°F and position the oven rack slightly below the center of the oven. Lightly butter a round cake pan or cast-iron skillet.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the flour, sugar and salt. Snap the pieces of shortening with your fingers until the shortening pieces are no larger than peas. Make a well in the mixture and pour in the cream and ⅔ cup of the buttermilk. Using your hands or a rubber spatula, sweep in the flour and turn the dough until the dry ingredients are moistened and the dough resembles cottage cheese, adding enough of the remaining ⅓ cup buttermilk to reach this consistency.

Sprinkle the rolling surface with flour. Turn the dough out onto the surface and sprinkle the top with flour. With floured hands, fold the dough in half and pat the dough into a ⅓- to ½-inch-thick round, using additional flour as needed. Flour again if necessary and fold the dough in half a second time. If the dough is still clumpy, repeat the folding process for a third time. Pat the dough into a 1-inch-thick round. Dip a 2-inch biscuit cutter into the flour and cut out biscuits, ensuring you do not twist the cutter.

Place the biscuits in the pan, sides slightly touching. Brush the tops of the biscuits with melted butter and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until light golden brown, rotating the pan 180°F after 6 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush the biscuits again with melted butter.

Hello, Knoxville! A Cleveland gal’s tourist experience

Knoxville tourism muralMural in downtown Knoxville; Photo credit: Taken by me

This past May, I had the opportunity to take a road trip from Cleveland to Knoxville, Tenn. to see Ms. Dolly Parton perform a benefit concert at the University of Tennessee’s (UT) Thompson Boling Arena.

I’ve never been to Tennessee. I only had two frames of reference: the country glitz of Nashville and the country grit of the Smoky Mountains. My people on my mom’s side of the family are from Kentucky, so I expected Tennesseans to be just as friendly as most of my kin are, but other than that (and possibly finding some good cooking) I had no idea what awaited me.

We had a quick trip to Knoxville planned, with just a day and a half to explore before we moved on to our next destination, but we sure made the most of it.

Touring Knoxville

After we checked into our hotel, we decided to walk to downtown Knoxville, have a little dinner and check out what was going on in Market Square, since I read there would be some free live music in the evening. (If you don’t want to walk, Knoxville Area Transit offers free trolleys that run around the downtown and UT area. Check out their website for current trolley routes and times.)

Sunsphere Knoxville World's Fair ParkThe Sunsphere at the World’s Fair Park; Photo credit: Taken by me

The first notable site we came across was the World’s Fair Park, which was hard to miss with a glittering gold orb, dubbed the Sunsphere looming overhead. Not much was going on while we were there, but there is an amphitheater and convention center within the 52-acre park. When there aren’t events scheduled, there are walking paths, green space and a children’s playground for people to enjoy.

Tennessee Woman's Suffrage MemorialTennessee Woman’s Suffrage Memorial; Photo credit: Taken by me

We continued our walk around downtown, seeing the Tennessee Woman’s Suffrage Memorial, honoring those who campaigned for the passage of an amendment to the United States Constitution (it took 72 years, but eventually Congress came around…)

Tennessee TheatreThe historic Tennessee Theatre; Photo credit: Taken by me

Eventually, we stumbled upon the Tennessee Theatre, where we learned B.B. King was playing that night. I considered seeing if there were still tickets for the show available, since I know he’s still killing it at age 89 (I saw him a couple of years ago at Cleveland tour stop). But, our desire for a good meal after our day-long car ride won out.

We ambled back to Market Square and found the Tupelo Honey Cafe beckoning to us. Reviews of the Tupelo Honey Cafe say to expect a wait; it was busy, but the restaurant gods were working in our favor and we were seated right away.

Venerated Veggie Bowl at Tupelo Honey CafeVeggie heaven in a bowl at the Tupelo Honey Cafe; Photo credit: Taken by me

Oh my stars, I can see why this place is hoppin’! I ordered the Venerated Veggie Bowl. You can’t see it in the picture, but beneath a heaping helping of fried okra and sauteed greens, there are black-eyed peas and the creamiest cheesy grits I’ve ever had (the goat cheese is the key)! Everything was expertly prepared (from scratch) and that, paired with my tasty bourbon cocktail, left me very happy, indeed.

After the meal, we headed back to our hotel to sleep off our food comas, which was a bit of a shame because it looked like the square was starting to get lively as the band was setting up.

The next day, we returned to check out some of the shopping opportunities that looked interesting, but were closed by the time we arrived the previous day. We spent a long time browsing Mast General Store. Too much time, because we ran out of time to go to the East Tennessee Historical Society, which we had hoped to have time to visit.

I found Knoxville to be rich in music and art and highly active in preserving the area’s historical heritage. A day and a half is definitely not enough time to take it all in. Next visit, I’ll plan better and check the City of Knoxville Things to Do website for more must-dos!

Seeing the Dolly Lama

Dolly Parton Knoxville TN 2014Dolly Parton performing in Knoxville, 5/28/14; Photo credit: Taken by me

Finally, it was time for the main event: The Dolly concert! We had been looking forward to this event since we bought our tickets six months earlier.

The concert was sold out, and I was happy to learn it was a benefit for two charities Dolly is very involved with: Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and the Dr. Robert F. Thomas Foundation.

I had read that Dolly has a very devoted following, but it didn’t really hit home until we got there and started talking to people while we were waiting for the show to start.

There was a group of people sitting near us that followed her from concert to concert and they had gotten to know other Dolly superfans. When they saw each other, they greeted each other warmly; the atmosphere felt more like a family reunion than an arena concert.

Next, we got to talking to the family sitting in front of us, they told us they had come from North Carolina and had bought their tickets as a 15th birthday present for their daughter (they said Dolly was playing a show closer to home, but it was at a casino which had a 21-and-over age restriction). It was awesome to get to see the girl experience the concert. When Dolly walked on stage, the girl was so overcome with excitement, she burst into tears. It was touching and I was so happy for her that her parents were able to give her the opportunity to come to the show.

Dolly Parton performing in Knoxville Tennessee May 28 2014Dolly Parton performing in Knoxville, 5/28/14; Photo credit: Taken by me.

As expected, Dolly cranked her performance up to 11. For over two hours, she performed old favorites, tunes from her new album, told stories and joked and flirted with the crowd. When the show was over, I definitely wanted more Dolly. Good thing I planned a trip to Dollywood the next day!

Welcome to Dollywood!

Dollywood sign at Dollywood amusement parkDollywood sign; Photo credit: Taken by me.

Since Knoxville is so close to Pigeon Forge, Tenn., and we were still basking in the glow of the Dolly Parton concert, of course we had to take a trip to Dollywood.

I had learned a cool tip before we arrived: If you come to the park after 3 PM, you can use your ticket for entrance the next day, too. (If you’re planning a trip, check the ticketing website or call the park to make sure this policy is still in effect.) This is an excellent option, whether you plan to ride the rides (I wasn’t) or you just want to take in the shows and bask in all things Dolly.

The park is very family friendly and there is something there for nearly everyone to enjoy–whether you’re a fan of Dolly or not. Nearly every employee was very friendly, most notably this sweet older lady who was working in a little store that wasn’t attracting much business. She gave us her pitch about the store’s products and then chatted us up for nearly a half hour. I felt like gained an adopted Meemaw and she gave me a lot of good information about the park.

But, really, I was just there to see the Chasing Rainbows museum, which is described on the Dollywood website as a place Dolly created “To share the results of her decades of dreaming, and to inspire others to follow their own.” Plus, it includes tons of memorabilia from Dolly’s life and career.

Dollywood Chasing Rainbows MuseumThe Chasing Rainbows museum, full of all things Dolly; Photo credit: Taken by me

When you enter, you go through a gallery of photos of Dolly with celebrities she met (or worked with) over the years. You’re then led to a place that’s described as Dolly’s Attic, and you’re welcomed by Dolly herself, in the form of a “Dollygram.”

Dollygram at the Chasing Rainbows museumDolly welcomes you to her museum; Photo credit: Taken by me

After your welcome, you continue through an exhibit detailing her youth living in the Smoky Mountains, you see bits of memorabilia (like love letters from her childhood beaus, audio and video of a 12-year-old Dolly performing, her high school band uniform) and the piece de resistance, the famous Coat of Many Colors:

Dolly Parton's Coat of Many Colors at DollywoodThe Coat of Many Colors; Photo credit: Taken by me

I have to admit I’m skeptical this is the coat, since kids are usually hard on clothes (and since Dolly was number four of eleven children, I assume other siblings would have worn it, too), but the song lyrics–written on the back of two dry cleaner’s receipts–look legit. It was an interesting peek at her songwriting process.

Next you’re led into the shrine of Dolly’s celebrity years. You see examples of her stage costumes from the 60s to the present, the robe she wore when she was awarded an honorary PhD by the University of Tennessee and gave a wildly popular commencement speech, and you get to see Dolly Parton’s other awards, so, so many awards.

Dolly Parton's Awards at Dollywood's Chasing Rainbows museumKennedy Center Honors, American Music Awards & Grammys–oh my!; Photo credit: Taken by me

You could spend days looking at everything in this museum (and I tried), there is so much to see! For me, it accomplished its mission–I left feeling I could achieve anything I set my mind to and worked hard at. There’s no better feeling than that.

Happy birthday, Dolly Parton! A fan spells out why you’re awesome

Dolly Parton Knoxville TN 2014Dolly Parton performing in Knoxville, 5/28/14; Photo credit: Taken by me

Happy birthday, Dolly Rebecca Parton!

Over the years I have become a great fan of Dolly. She is a talented singer and songwriter, but that is not the reason I love her. I love her because of her FACE. Not her face–though she is quite lovely–but her F.A.C.E. Allow me to spin a Dolly-style yarn to explain.

I’ve never met Ms. Parton (but if her representatives feel inclined to set something up, I would clear my schedule for it), so my opinions are based on what I’ve observed while seeing her perform, what I’ve read and what I’ve learned while traveling to eastern Tennessee. But, I like to believe she’s a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of gal. It’d be hard to keep in character throughout nearly 50 years in the entertainment business, don’t you think?

F is for…

  • Fearless – The day after she graduated high school, she got on a bus with her guitar, a few clothes, a little bit of money and some big dreams. She was moving to Nashville to be a star. That takes a whole lot of guts.
  • Feminist – Though I don’t recall her coming right out and saying it, Dolly’s a feminist. But, listen to her song lyrics, read her autobiography and observe how she lives her life on her terms. Dolly has always been a woman who knows what she wants to achieve and sees no reason why she can’t achieve it. Don’t believe me? This post on the Feminist Times website, Dolly Parton: A Radical in Rhinestones spells it out pretty throughly.
  • Family and friends are important – At every opportunity, Dolly is quick to share how friends and family members help her continue to pursue her dreams and expresses love and gratitude for them. And she is loyal to them, even if they don’t always agree with her. I’d love to ask Judy Ogle, Dolly’s assistant and friend since the third grade, about some of their disagreements.

A is for…

  • Aspiration – From a very young age, Dolly had dreams of wearing pretty, new clothes (being from a poor family with 11 other siblings, you tend to wear a lot of hand-me-down clothes) and singing before an audience.  She had the opportunity to sing on a local radio show at 10 and never looked back. While she was still in school, she made trips to Nashville with her Uncle Billy, performing when she could and trying to find someone to introduce her to her big break. Eventually their hard work earned her the opportunity to perform on the Grand Ole Opry stage and a deal to do a demo record. That first shot didn’t lead to great stardom, but it was a great learning opportunity and fostered her work ethic. She never gave up. She knew stardom had to happen to someone, so why not her?
  • Ability – Not only is gifted singer, she is a talented and prolific songwriter (I couldn’t find hard numbers on her songwriting catalog, but a quick BMI search turned up nearly 700 titles). Other artists easily recognize her talent and many have covered her famous tunes. She remains relevant to artists today with Jack White and Dave Grohl being a couple of notable examples.
  • Attitude – Dolly has a positive attitude, is quick to show gratitude and give credit to others for how they have helped her. She’s funny and self-deprecating, too. I dare you to watch this interview Dolly did for ABC News and not smile at least once.

C is for…

  • Confident – She likes her look, doesn’t care if it meets “mainstream” standards. She’s okay being an individual, and she wants you to be, too. As she writes in the prologue to her autobiography, Dolly: My Life and Other Unfinished Business: “I think it’s a big mistake to try to pattern yourself too much after anybody else. We are all individuals. Just like snowflakes, no two of us are alike, and that, to me, is the beauty of it.”
  • Control – Despite her shucks-I’m-just-a-poor-girl-from-Tennessee-who-likes-to-look-pretty-and-sing persona, there’s a big brain under Dolly’s wig. She’s a savvy businesswoman–people thought she was crazy for her Dollywood idea (which has been going strong since 1986)–and keeps tight control of her image and her song catalog.
  • Caring – Over the years, Dolly has supported many philanthropic causes, especially those that promote the welfare of her eastern Tennessee community. One that is particularly close to her heart, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, is an organization she founded to promote literacy by giving books to preschool-aged children. To date, they’ve given out over 60 million books. She also has been the honorary chairperson of the Dr. Robert F. Thomas Foundation working to bring quality health care to Sevier County for more than 30 years.

E is for…

  • Entertainer – From the time she performed for the chickens in backyard, Dolly has known how to put on a show. Her concerts still sell out all over the world. She was a hit at the Glastonbury Festival this past year. After having the blessing to see her perform in person, I know that this woman knows how to keep a crowd on their feet and leave them wanting more.
  • Enthusiastic and full of energy – She’s got a pile of money in the bank; she could just go back to her Tennessee Mountain Home and just kick back and relax. But, she doesn’t. She’s still enthusiastic about her music career, her business ventures and busy thinking up new dreams to pursue. Her most recent dream brought to life–Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort–is opening this summer and it was recently reported that Dolly signed a movie development deal with NBC for a series of movies based on her songs and life.

I wish that “face” was spelled with an “I” because I would add introvert to the list. After learning of the social causes Dolly supports, hearing about her empathy for others who feel like an outsider and how she chooses to spend her down time–hanging out at home with her husband and family, reading, writing, praying/meditating–I believe Ms. Parton is a fellow introvert. I’d wager she views her glitz and glamour as the uniform she puts on to get her into the game. The game of doing what she loves most: performing music and bringing joy into the world.

Happy birthday, Dolly.

Easy pickled turnips

Easy pickled turnips

This summer, my boyfriend decided to grow turnips in his home garden.

Yes, turnips. He also grew loads of tomatoes–many of them were heirloom varieties, including my favorites the Cherokee Purple and  the Green Zebra–so I forgave him for what I felt was a gardening transgression.

His venture was an interesting experiment until harvest time, when he had an overabundance of turnips to deal with. I have never cooked with turnips, so I had no idea what to do with them. Our attempts to steam them were just okay (frankly, they were a bit on the blah and boring side).

As I was trying to figure out what to do with these not-so-little root vegetables, I remembered that my favorite Middle Eastern restaurant served pickled turnips as a sandwich topping. So, I decided to turn to the internet and find an easy pickled turnip recipe.

I was rewarded for this endeavor by not only finding an easy pickled turnips recipe, but discovering a previously-unknown-to-me food writer: David Lebovitz. I’ve been reading his blog ever since, between bouts of eating my freshly made pickled turnips, and being completely envious of his life living as an American expat in Paris.

Now that I know how easy making pickled turnips (and beets!) is, I know I will making more with my available turnip supply. And, it reminds me that turnips do not have to be boring… so I will be doing some more turnip experiments in my tiny kitchen this winter.

Easy pickled turnipsEasy Pickled Turnips

 Slightly from David Lebovitz’s Pickled Turnips recipe (because I love beets!)

3 c. water

1/3 c. kosher salt

1 bay leaf

1 c. distilled white vinegar

2 lbs. turnips, peeled and cut into spears

1 large beet (or 2 medium beets), peeled and cut into spears

3 cloves garlic, peeled sliced

In a saucepan, heat about half the water and add the salt and bay leaf, stirring until salt dissolves. Turn off heat and let liquid cool to room temperature. When the liquid has cooled, add the vinegar and remaining water. Put the turnips, beets, and garlic into a jar with a lid or a lidded glass storage container. Pour the liquid over the vegetables, cover and store at room temperature for one week. After one week move the container to the refrigerator until ready to serve.