My students are close to mutiny.
At the beginning of the year we sat together to create a menu. I told them they only get three sweet dishes. “It’s unrealistic to only learn how to make cakes and cookies,” I told them. “Those aren’t life skills!” But what elementary student is interested in life skills when next week is forever away? So I took their suggestions of hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza and chocolate-chocolate chip cookie lollipops into consideration and created a menu for the semester. The sweets were interspersed throughout the savory dishes so that at just the moment when the longing for sugar erupted, they would receive.
I blame myself. I took on their suggestion for candy apples.
“Candy apples,” I thought, “that sounds like a good Halloween dish to make.” So I added it to the menu board posted outside our classroom. As Halloween grew nearer, scalding sugar was on my mind. I looked at an old sugar scar on my hand and thought, maybe hot caramel isn’t such a hot idea with a classroom of elementary students. So to be different, we made those savory, cheddar-filled, magic-inducing witch fingers.
Everyone loved the witch fingers. My students never caught the switch because they never processed the actual date we would make candy apples. The past two weeks I have been picking them up, they hear what we are making, and I receive the same response: “So candy apples next week, right?”
“Oh, candy apples wouldn’t be any fun.” I tell them. “Just me dipping caramel. Nothing for you to do.” I attempt to change the subject. “This week is delicious, everyone loves it.”
They don’t buy it. “We can roll them in nuts.”
“We’re not allowed nuts, people are allergic.” (This is true. I don’t cook with nuts. Or crazies.)
“We can roll them in candy!”
“We’re supposed to make candy apples! We can make Nutella apples instead!” (That darn Nutella resurfaces!)
The murmurs of revolt started last week in kindergarten. Honestly, I am surprised it took this long for them to realize (or at least voice) that we’ve had no cookie or cupcake on the menu. This week the rabid quest for sugar spread to my fourth and fifth graders.
They’re over savory. Despite their calls that this week “was the most fun thing we have made, but I think sushi might be even better.” Despite their declaration that, “Cooking is the best. Definitely more fun than dance.”
It started with attacks in the hallways. Biting my legs, the unattainable candy canes. Reaching for my hair, a frill of cotton candy. They’re having sugar melt downs.
“What are you talking about?! We put maple syrup in this. And we’ve used honey in a few recipes already!?” I line up my defenses. “And everyone says it tastes like pumpkin pie!”
“But it’s not pumpkin pie.”
They can be so technical.
I backed myself into this problem. I should have replaced those candy apples with another sweet item. Silly me, I wanted to show my students that Halloween isn’t all candy (it isn’t?)– there are fun savory snacks that can be made! Some might say I should have made this week a sweet week to make up for the switch. My own menu planning OCD disallows two sweet items in such close proximity. This places me in another conundrum next week– I haven’t figured out what we’re making! Thanksgiving is fast approaching and the week after next we will make a sweet pumpkin bread for everyone to take home. (A whole loaf to take home and share with families during the holiday!)
“Bread?” They roll their eyes at me. “CUPCAKES!”
“Really,” I ensure them, “the pumpkin bread has sugar.” It really does, a good deal.
So here I am. The wet blanket of sugar, dissolved into nothingness by student protests.
“What are we making next week?” The menu is not set. The question is turning into a demand.
“I was thinking cranberries…” I half whisper-smile to my K/1 classroom.
“I don’t like cranberries.”
So here it is. The most delicious–pumpkin-pie-tasting–most-fun-ever-making–better-than-dance…
Butternut Squash Ravioli
1-1/2 to 2 cups roasted butternut squash (or one 15 ounce can butternut squash)
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 package (50-60) wonton wrappers
Orange-Thyme Brown Butter Sauce
1 stick unsalted butter
2-3 sprigs thyme
1 orange, juiced
Combine butternut squash, egg, maple syrup, olive oil, salt, zest and cinnamon in a bowl. Using a potato masher, smash until smooth and well mixed. Place one wonton wrapper on work surface in front of you. Dab a finger in water and wet the edges of the wrapper. Add approximately 1 tablespoon filling in the center of the wrapper, place another wrapper on top and seal all edges, pushing around the edges, not center, working out air bubbles. Continue until filling and wrappers are done. At this point, ravioli can be frozen separate on a baking sheet then transferred to a plastic bag, or cook now.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. In a separate small sauce pot, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add thyme. Slowly heat butter until it browns to a deep caramel color. Add orange juice and bring to a boil then reduce heat, keeping warm while ravioli finishes.
Add ravioli gently to boiling water without crowding the pot, about 10 pieces at a time. Move a spoon across the bottom to ensure they do not stick. Boil 2-3 minutes, transfer to a bowl and continue with remaining ravioli. Toss with brown butter sauce and serve.