Spaghetti Squash and Make-It-Your-Own Sauce

Hello Tablers!  My apologies for being MIA this past week, between my day job, general life, and getting lasers shot in my eye, it’s been a pretty busy time around here.  All those time constraints have led to me eating pretty poorly, a lot of breads, a lot of meats, and not a lot of veggies.  For shame!

So this week I’m eating healthier, lighter, and getting back in the swing of things! It’s Springtime, isn’t that what we should all be doing anyway?

We’re going to start this week with a vegetable I get confused by: Spaghetti Squash.

People love it, and there is some that I’ve had that is delicious, but every time I have made it at home it turns out either undercooked or squishy, or not that tasty.  There was a big pile of them staring me in the face at the market though, and I will not be deterred. If it can replace pasta every now and then and still give me the satisfaction, I’m all in.

Now, let’s talk tomato sauce. Is there any sauce that is more forgiving than a tomato sauce? I call this Make-It-Your-Own tomato sauce, because you can pretty much put in anything you might think will work. You can use different meats, different vegetables, different spices, make it your own! Of course you can serve it with regular pasta too!

Let’s start with the squash.

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Look at that beauty. So yellow!  So…oval.  Ok well it’s a pretty yellow at least.

First thing you do is cut that baby in half, lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds.

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A blank canvas, ready for seasoning!

Spaghetti squash is pretty tasteless, which is bad if you want to eat it on its own, but great if you want to cover it with something delicious. Add some salt, pepper, and drizzle some olive oil on both halves, and then put them face down on a baking sheet. Cover with foil.

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Peek-a-boo

Throw it in the oven for 30 minutes to an hour, checking after 30 minutes. You know it’s done when a knife slides into it easily.

Now while that’s cooking let’s talk about the sauce. Looking in my fridge, I had some Italian turkey sausage, some onions, and sweet peppers, so that’s what I used. But hey, you have some ground beef? Ground turkey? Chicken Sausage? Spinach? Broccoli? Use it!  Whatever you feel like.

First cook the onions for a few minutes, then add your protein, in this case my delicious spicy turkey sausage.

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After the turkey sausage is browned, add in the rest of the veggies, in this case the chopped sweet peppers I had. (If you’re using spinach or some other leafy green, don’t add it now, add it near the end).

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Action shot!

Then add a can of whole tomatoes, crushing them with your hand as they go in, to really get all the juices out.

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This is the point where you open up your spice cabinet and see what’s happening in there. In my kitchen I had some dried oregano, dried basil, garlic salt, red chili flakes, and cumin (why not?), so I put some of each in there, gave it all a stir, put a lid on it and let it cook until the squash was done. Oh also add some salt and pepper of course.

Speaking of, here’s the squash when it’s done:

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Perfect. Now take a fork and carefully scrape the strands apart, basically moving from the skin side to the middle, like this:

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MAGIC.

Let’s check the sauce too.  Sometimes you’ll have to mash the tomatoes up a little more with your spoon.

 

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And when you add the two together, with a little parmesan, of course…

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A satisfying, and healthy meal, that’s full of flavor!  And it even looks like spaghetti! The miracle of nature.

SPAGHETTI SQUASH:

Ingredients:

1 2-3 pound spaghetti squash
Salt
Pepper
Olive Oil

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Cut squash in half, lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds.

3. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

4. Place cut side down on a baking sheet, cover the sheet with foil.

5. Place in oven for 30 minutes to 1 hour.  Check after 30 minutes. It’s done when a knife can slide into it easily.

6. Remove from oven and let cook for 5 minutes.

7. With a fork, gently scrape the squash away from the skin into strings. Place into a bowl.

8. Add your favorite topping and enjoy!

MAKE-IT-YOUR-OWN TOMATO SAUCE

Ingredients:

1 28oz can whole tomatoes

1/2 pound protein (sausage, ground beef, turkey, etc).

1 onion

Vegetables (peppers, broccoli, asparagus, zuchinni, whatever you like)

Spices.

Instructions:

1. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a pot or deep pan over medium heat.

2. Add onion and cook for 4-5 minutes until just starting to brown.

3. Add your protein, and cook until browned.

4. Add your sturdy vegetables and cook 3 minutes.

5. Add tomatoes and liquid to the pot, crushing with your hand as you go.

6. Add spices (basil, oregano, garlic, fennel, chili, whatever else you might have in your cabinet!) and seasoning.

7. Reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer 20-30 minutes.

8. Crush tomatoes a little more with your spoon.  Salt and pepper to taste.

8*. If you have leafy greens, this is where you should put them in and cook a few minutes longer until they’re just wilted.

9. Serve over spaghetti squash, or regular pasta, with lots of parmesan cheese.

 

 

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Tomatoes and Butter and Bucatini Oh My!

I was super lazy this weekend. My boyfriend was out of town, so it was just me and the dogs and no scheduled events, which was so nice. By the time Sunday rolled around I really didn’t want to make anything too fancy, because it was just me.  I had some bucatini I’ve been wanting to use, because I love bucatini, so I asked the internets (or more accurately, I said to my phone “Ok Google, find me a simple recipe for bucatini), and found probably the easiest pasta I’ve made to date, short of pouring sauce out of a jar.

Remember when I talked about a recipe that was sure to get you a man?  Cancel that thought.  This is the one that will land you a man.

It’s three simple steps.

1. Put the ingredients in a dish and bake.

In a baking dish you add the following: canned tomatoes, butter, a couple anchovies, a lot of garlic, red pepper, salt and pepper.  I added oregano because I’m rebellious.

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2. When it’s done baking, take it out, and mash it all up with a potato masher.

At this point everything will be so soft that it will all melt together. Also, as I learned, be prepared for a splatter filled oven.

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3. Toss with cooked bucatini, or really any pasta. Top with parmesan, and if you want, some crispy pancetta. Place in bowl.

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It is so amazingly good for the amount of effort you put into it.  Honestly, I can barely look at this picture without wanting more of it.  Unfortunately there’s none left…cuz…well…you know…I mean it’s really good.

The recipe is at Bon Appetit,

Wintery Mac and Cheese

At the risk of sounding too Oprah about it, I have to say, there is a lot in life to love.  For example, the weather in Los Angeles is amazing, I have a very loving partner, two adorable dogs, and really great friends.  I love all of it.

But above everything else comes my true love:

Macaroni and Cheese.

For me, there’s nothing more satisfying, comforting, indulgent, and happiness-inducing than cheese covered pasta.  When done right, it can transport you to a place some* have described as pure nirvana.

(*I’m probably the only one who has said this)

Conversely, there is nothing more disappointing than mac and cheese done poorly. You know, like when you’re at a restaurant and that Lobster Mac and Cheese sounds delicious, and you order it, and it comes and you’re so excited, and then you bite into it and remember that lobster and cheese don’t always go well together, and the sauce is too thin, or too thick, or the wrong cheese was used, and- well you get the point.

There’s nothing quite like homemade mac and cheese, and (not to sound too cocky) I happen to be pretty good at it. It’s what I bring to potlucks and it’s always a hit.

A few years ago I invited some friends over for dinner and was presented with a list of various dietary limitations, which included onions, tomatoes, garlic, any citrus, basically everything fun to cook with. Normally I don’t accept requests, but I happen to like these people a lot, so I didn’t cancel.

Fortunately mac and cheese is a dish that you can adapt in endless ways.  You can use different cheeses! Different pastas! Different vegetables!  You can cook it in a pot or bake until it’s crispy! It’s always exciting enough to use exclamation points!

This dinner took place during the winter, so I wanted something especially warm and inviting. I decided on butternut squash and kale as the vegetables, and for the cheeses a mix of mozzarella, smoked gouda, and nutty manchego.

The next part happened purely by happenstance. I was at Trader Joe’s, with my hand on a bag of whole wheat pasta, when I saw the brown rice pasta right next to it, and it called to me.  So I took a chance and bought that instead, and let me tell you, it was the best decision. The pasta is lighter than wheat pasta, so it made the entire dish feel less heavy and didn’t give you that feeling like you had a hunk of cheese in your stomach after that second helping.

I also used 1% milk in my bechemel sauce, which is blasphemy. I’m not a pro bechemel maker, and 1% sounded healthier, but hey whatever.

First I roast the butternut squash:

IMG_6889Crispy and sweet!

While that’s roasting you can lightly braise the kale and boil the pasta.

Then shred all the cheese.

img_6871Yet another reason I love my food processor.

Next, make a simple bechemel sauce.

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Then add the cheeeeeeeeeese!

IMG_6881I mean…

Then, add the kale, the squash, and the pasta.IMG_6892*SWOON*

You could eat it at this point, it would be delicious.  But if you like those crispy edges, like I do, onward.

Empty the pot into a baking pan, and top with some bread crumbs.  And then bake until golden brown.

IMG_6895Basically, I die.

Cut a piece off, take a picture to show your friends, and then eat the other 90% you left in the pan while no one’s watching.

IMG_6903I ate all the rest.

Wintery Mac and Cheese

INGREDIENTS
1 lb Organic Brown Rice Pasta (available at Trader Joe’s)
2 bunches kale
1 lb butternut squash (cut into 1 inch cubes) – (if you want to cheat, get two packages of pre-cut butternut squash in the vegetable aisle)
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
3 cups 1% low fat milk
3 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded smoked gouda cheese
1 cup shredded Manchego cheese
2 slices whole wheat bread
Olive oil
Parmesan cheese
Salt & Pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. In a roasting pan, lay out the butternut squash.  Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt & pepper, get down and dirty and toss it all together with your hands.  Roast the butternut squash 30 minutes or so, until soft and slightly caramelized.  Be sure to toss the squash once during roasting.

3.  Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions (be sure to salt the water!).  Drain and set to the side.

4.  While the pasta and squash are cooking, wash the kale, remove the tough stems and slice into 1/2 to 1 inch strips.

5. In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, add the kale and chicken broth.  Season with salt, and toss lightly.  Cover and braise the kale until it has wilted down, about 10 minutes (it will still be a bit crunchy even after all that braising).  Drain when finished.

6.  Remove the crusts from the slices of bread and pulse in a food processor until you have fine bread crumbs.  Place in a bowl, toss with a little olive oil and set aside. You can also use store bought breadcrumbs.

7.  In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat.  Sprinkle in the flour and stir with whisk until well incorporated.  Keep stirring until mixture thicken, about 2-3 minutes.

8.  Add the milk.  Whisk slowly, but continuously.  As the milk warms, the sauce will get thicker.  When it coats the back of a spoon, it’s ready.

9.  Add the mozzarella, gouda, and manchego cheeses.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

10.  Fold in the roasted squash, the braised kale, and the cooked pasta, and toss all together until everything is deliciously covered in the gooey white sauce.  Make sure to sample it…you know, to make sure it tastes right.

11.  Pour mixture into a baking dish large enough to handle all the goodness, and sprinkle the bread crumbs on top.  Sprinkle some parmesan cheese on top of that.

12.  Place in oven for another 20 minutes, or until brown and crispy.

13.  Remove from oven and serve.

14.  Call your friends and tell them they should come over because it’s so amazing.  Just make sure you don’t eat it all before they arrive.  Oh and tell them to bring wine.  It’s only polite.

Sunset + Kimchi = *swoon*

Sometimes you come across a recipe that combines so many things that you love dearly and you know instantly that you have to make it.  So, when I read this recipe for Pork and Kimchi Stew in Sunset Magazine, I knew it was destined to get in my belly.

For those who don’t know it: Sunset Magazine is just the best.  It’s full of useful information and tips for your home, vacations around the West, food, and more.  If i were to live inside a magazine, this would be the one.  I renewed my subscription through 2016…back in 2011, because it’s a love affair that will never end.

For those who don’t know it II: Kimchi is a wonder that you must taste to understand.  It’s a spicy, fermented vegetable side dish from Korea that I have loved since I was a kid.  It’s fiery hot, crisp, salty, tingly on your tongue, and apparently really good for you too, which is why I eat a lot of it…yeah…that’s why….  I haven’t attempted to make it myself, but it will happen soon!

Ok back to the stew, which I feel is more of a soup, but stew sounds so much more delectable and could not be easier if you tried.  Though you could have someone else make it for you and that would be easier, I suppose.  But it’s so easy you don’t need anyone else (we’re all independent women).

First you start by browning some pork.

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Then you add the magical trio of onion, garlic, and ginger. Anything that starts with these is going to be heavenly.

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THEN COMES THE FUN PART: Add the kimchi and jalapeños! HOT HOT HOT!

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I’m not kidding about how much I love kimchi. I add it to eggs, I have it with a steak, I just eat it for a snack. I have a problem.

After that you add in various other things like sesame oil and soy sauce, and you let it boil and bubble for a few minutes.

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And finally you add in some tofu, and serve it piping hot!

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Just look at it! It’s a stew the color of kimchi!If you want it heartier, serve it over some rice!  And about 20 minutes from start to finish so you have no excuse not to go make it right now.

RIGHT. NOW.  GO!  And report back!

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RECIPE: Pork and Kimchi Stew via Sunset Magazine