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If there’s a more Fall-spirited, festive, happy-making dish around, please fill me in.

Let’s talk about ingredients first, starting with this squash. (I know, I know, three straight weeks of squash…next week will be squash-free, promise).

The name “Carnival” really sums it up. This squash makes me want to throw on a party hat and blow on a plastic kazoo. Am I the only one?

Carnival squash is a heritage breed and can usually be found at your local farmer’s market. If you’re really lucky, lighting strikes, and you’re there on the right day, you can find them at Whole Foods. Especially around Thanksgiving when Whole Foods erupts into a massive delivery channel of straight-from-the-farm produce, from Winter greens to Winter squash, Garnet Yams, and everything in between.

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The Carnival squash’s skin ranges from dark green to vivid orange, and the flesh is sweet and a little spicy. I’ve got to be careful about using the word “flesh” since my kids erroneously presumed that I was feeding them humans when we did our mystery food challenge last week. I assume that you won’t make the same mistake. We don’t eat humans in our house, and neither should you.

If you’ve been reading my posts, you’ll know that I have a habit of prepping ingredients right after I get home from the store. Prepped ingredients are far easier to incorporate into quick-fix meals, so I usually slice and roast squash with nothing but olive oil, salt and pepper, and then figure out how to use it at a later time.

Likewise with homemade stock. Whenever I’m at the store, I pick up a few extra pieces of bony/collagen-filled meat, which I make into stock that can either be refrigerated for a few days, or frozen. If you’ve ever wondered who that person is buying up those packages of chicken backs, lamb necks, or chunky pork bones – that would be me. They’re cheap, and the bones give your stock incredible body.

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We’re talking squash again this week. Two weeks in a row, I hope this isn’t a fireable offense. What can I say, I’m passionate about squash. As if last week’s post didn’t convince you…

We stayed in New York this weekend since we had a few activities planned. One of which was the highly-anticipated feedfeed Market Day at the Union Square Greenmarket.

I first linked up with feedfeed on Instagram where they’re building a strong community of like-minded people who love to cook. Their website is growing, and is quickly becoming a go-to source for inspiration on a broad range of topics, from pies and soups to pancakes and smoothies. As the website evolves and becomes more searchable, its curated content will surely rival some of the biggest food websites today. I’m just happy to be a part of it all – as both observer and occasional contributor.

I was finally able to meet the founders of feedfeed – Julie and Dan Resnick – in person this weekend. Their Market Day event at the farmer’s market brought together a number of chefs, nutritionists, stylists and food bloggers and it was fun to chat with everyone about the changing food landscape.

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Social media and social platforms such as feedfeed are no doubt improving the way that food is cooked at home. Restaurant-quality food is making its way into home kitchens as home cooks become more innovative and experimental.

My food has changed immensely since I’ve become part of a community who cooks and then shares the output online. I’ve become more confident, and have started to take risks with my cooking. I’ve become intrigued by unique flavors and textures, influenced in large part by the global accounts that I follow – from home cooks in the Middle East to UK-based naturopaths, and minimalist-minded Scandinavian food stylists. Like a sponge, I’ve soaked it all in, eyes wide open.

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I wasn’t planning to write a Mother’s Day post. Today’s post was supposed to be about ramps, but ramps will have to wait. Mother’s Day is a more timely subject, and one that I shamefully didn’t prioritize.

It’s not that I don’t love Mother’s Day, I do. But I tend to get excited about it on actual day itself, when at 11AM, someone in the house (not a child) says “oh crap, it’s Mother’s Day.” Then I start to scheme about all of the wonderful things that are heading my way….a late afternoon nap perhaps, or a 7:30PM bedtime with a good book.

I hope that my lax attitude towards Mother’s Day doesn’t sound harsh. I’m certainly not an old curmudgeon who goes about disparaging Valentine’s Day and the rest of the Hallmark holidays. If I’m to be completely honest, I’m equally forgetful about anniversaries. Rodney and I are often shocked to see a bouquet of flowers show up in our apartment every November, courtesy of my mother, who doesn’t forget these things.

But here’s the thing about forgetting communal holidays. It’s much better if it’s forgotten until the end of the day. At which point you realize the error of your ways, have some celebratory Champagne, and head to bed happy and a little drunk.

The worst time to remember is mid-morning, when you feel compelled to do something about it outside of the home.

Which is how, two years ago, we ended up at McDonald’s.

Not my first choice either, but here are the facts: 1) we were staying at the lake for the weekend where there are only 1-2 decent restaurants, decent meaning not McDonald’s, 2) everyone within a 15 mile radius goes hunting and gathering for a table at one of said restaurants, and 3) McDonald’s was right around the corner.

Based on my food and recipes, you may have presumed by now that I’m more skilled in the kitchen than a McDonald’s fry cook. Which isn’t a fair comparison, because it’s possible that he’s a talented chef who’s butting up against the chronic and debilitating constraints imposed by McDonald’s corporate.

But the point is this: my food tends to be better than what you’ll find at your neighborhood Golden Arches. Meaning that we could have gone back to our house, tails between our legs, and prepared a splendid brunch of Eggs Benedict, plump sausages, and blood orange mimosas. But that would be admitting defeat.

So rather than making me do all of that wonderful gruntwork which would have had me humming The Sound of Music all morning, Rodney suggested that we go to McDonald’s. Because, you know, the kids are hungry and we should probably find somewhere quickly before tectonic plates shift, the ground opens up, and world disintegrates into a smoking heap of ashes.

McDonald’s is one of those “in the case of an emergency, break glass” kinds of places. And I suppose that hungry kids = emergency, although in my highly trained medical opinion, treatment should have included a return to the house STAT for some whole grain crackers and a yogurt squeezers while I did the Sound of Music thing.

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