A New Squash Appreciation

When I was a little girl and was given squash for dinner, I had a couple of different ideas on how to handle this undesirable vegetable.  None of them included eating it.  I either dropped it on the floor for the dog to eat, left it on my plate until it was much to cold to eat or my favorite was to mix it with cranberry sauce and pretend I was eating peanut butter and jelly.  I said it was my favorite idea, just not a good tasting one.

Over the years, I tried in vain to acquire a taste for it.  I would think I liked the way it was prepared but when I ate it or tried to make it myself it had that same appeal that it had when I was a child.  I felt I would never grow to like squash, in any form.

Lately, however, I have been venturing out and a desire for different types of squash is burning.  I have had it pan-fried in hash and roasted in soups.  When I was at the market the other day, I went totally out of the box and picked up a spaghetti squash.  I didn’t even know how I was going to prepare it, but I knew I was going to do something!

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Imagine the odds when a couple of days later I came across this recipe from Half Baked Harvest’s blog for Roasted Garlic Spaghetti Squash Lasagna Boats.  I immediately went out, bought my ingredients and prepared my version of her recipe.

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I was totally amazed!  This had everything I loved about lasagna but was made with squash.  Could it be?  Could I actually have found a squash that I really loved?  I think the answer was a big yes.  I can’t really call this a healthy meal because of the cheese in it, but I do have to say it’s slightly better than eating a dish of lasagna.  Squash versus pasta equals a healthy alternative, so we have a partial win with this one.

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To make this easier if you’re in a pinch you can always use your favorite jarred sauce and for the cheese sauce, just layer parmesan and mozzarella cheese as you would in the traditional recipe.  If you do have the time however, go all out and do it as the recipe states.  It is so worth it.

Take it from a former squash hater.  This is one recipe you’ll keep!

 

 

Cold Weather and Soup

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There comes a point in time when I am tired of the summer weather.  I know many of you won't agree with me but I long for sweaters and fires and cozy comfort.  That is probably one reason why I decided I needed to ignore the 75 degree weather in the beginning of October and make some soup.

I love soup.  It takes me back to those childhood days of tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches my mom would make me.  It was soup out of a can but it still gave you the warmth and cozy home feeling after the chill of the autumn air.

I had seen this soup recipe in our local newspaper and of course I couldn't leave it alone...I had to put my own spin on it.  I am so glad I did because as we were sitting around the table in our shorts and flip-flops, my husband said to me that if we weren't already married, after eating this soup he would have married me!  How is that for a testimonial on how good this was?

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This is super easy to make so even on a busy day, you can have this for your family dinner.   A salad and some crusty bread will make it a complete meal.

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Cold weather will be here soon and I will be making this again.  Heavy socks, a warm sweater and a bowl of this soup will take me back to my mom's kitchen.  I don't know about you, but it doesn't get any better than that.

 

A Lighter Stuffed Pepper

This is my favorite time of year.  THE HOLIDAYS!  It’s about good friends, good times and good food.  (Good parties aren’t really so bad either).  Christmas is actually my favorite, with Thanksgiving a close second as far as food and parties go, but I really do love the Thanksgiving leftovers.  (I know there are more out there like me, so admit it)  Seriously, I could cook everything up, skip the dinner and just save all the food for the next day.  That is how much I love it.

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The standard turkey sandwich is one of the best ways to go, but my mom’s turkey rice soup is pretty incredible too.  The only problem is I have so many leftovers left over, that it becomes boring with the choices I have to use them all up.  I think, however, I may have stumbled on a pretty good addition to the leftover madness that ensues.

This is a recipe that I have worked out with turkey sausage and the recipe follows.  An alternative of course would be to use the equivalent of chopped turkey. If you do use the chopped turkey, it may tend to be a bit on the drier side so definitely add a bit more olive oil to the mix when you’re cooking it with the onions.  You could also add a bit of leftover gravy to keep it moist.  The options are endless!  I also used Tatsoi, which is a hardy green, sort of like a spinach or kale relative.  If you can’t find it (I found mine at the farmer’s market) you can always substitute with spinach or kale.

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The fun thing about this is you can really use anything you want.  Stuffed peppers are typically made with rice and ground beef and lots of cheese, but I’m trying to go the heart healthy way more often, so this is why I decided on this formula.  Get creative and use those leftovers up!  After all, it’s going to be another whole year before we can do this again!

 

 

Roasted Caprese Pasta

Sometimes, even though it’s the middle of a hot summer,  I want some comfort food.  Although I love grilled veggies and fruit, salads and fish, there comes that time when I just want a dish of pasta.  Typically this time of year is just too hot for that.

We had two weeks of high temperatures and humidity and just when I thought I was at the breaking point we got a cool day.  Well, if you can call 79 degrees cool.  But it was the break I needed and that craving of pasta came crawling back into my brain.

I didn’t want a heavy pasta dish because it was after all still summer.   And then it hit me….. fresh tomatoes from the garden, homemade sausage and mozzarella from our trip to NYC,  with fragrant basil from my herbs..  My version of a caprese pasta was born.

it was substantial enough to meet my requirements of comfort food and yet light enough to still follow the rules of summer eating.  I felt like I had wrapped up in a comfortable sweatshirt and it made me happy.

We all need a break sometime, even if it’s about the weather.  Take advantage of it next time you get one.  You’ll be glad you did!

 

Roasted Fennel and Sausage Orecchiette

Pasta has always been one of my favorite go-to comfort foods.  it’s probably not the best thing for my diet, but on a cold night there is nothing better.  For someone like me, however,  the basic tomato sauce can be a bit boring so I’m always trying to find something that ranks a little higher on the taste thermometer.

I think I found something.

This had everything I was looking for…ingredients that could stand alone individually on flavor, lots of color and it was not your typical spaghetti and red sauce.  I wasn’t sure how it was going to go over with my husband…he is after all, a sauce man and you typically cannot change is mind.  The pressure was on…..

I adapted this from Giada’s cooking show.  One of the things I changed was the sausage.  You can use whatever sausage you like but I opted for a sausage made at Whole Foods.  Chicken sausage with red peppers and garlic..  One of their best in my opinion with a lot of zest and flavor.  And for me, I roasted the fennel just a bit longer than the time given, only because I like mine a bit more charred.

The aroma when cooking this meal was amazing, the colors were beautiful and the taste was so flavorful.  I don’t think my husband even realized there wasn’t a sauce.  I must have changed his way of thinking because he went back for more!

I love this meal and I think you will too.  Pair it with a nice salad and some crusty bread and you’ve got a comfort food that your guests will all enjoy!

Don’t let your meatloaf!

The fourth annual “Don’t Let your Meatloaf” party happened in my neighborhood this past weekend.  It was the first time my husband and I had been invited to the event and I was terribly excited about going.  A party geared towards cooking something?  Right up my alley.

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The rule was no garlic.  Not sure the hows and whys of where this rule came about but I followed it.  I was not going to be disqualified because of a rule like that…I was in it to win it!  I had a meatloaf recipe that was pretty good, but this had to be the best.  After all, I was going to write about the party and brag how much everyone loved my meatloaf.  I practiced, I added and I tweaked.  This was going to be amazing!

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The time of the party arrived and I thought my meatloaf looked beautiful.  I was very proud.  First mistake of the evening…I didn’t try it.  We arrived at the home of Judy and Steve and pictures were taken.  The rules were explained to us on how to vote.  Wow…this was really serious!  Second mistake of the evening….I thought it was really serious.  It was time to taste and vote but judging the meatloaves was proving to be a challenge because each award needed to be voted on individually and there were a lot of meatloaves!  Vote first for best looking meatloaf and then go back through the line and flag all the bites taken and taste test.  Third mistake of the evening….I thought I could win.

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As instructed, we had to pick a first place winner, second place and third place, one for best looking and one for worst, all separate categories.  Little did I know then how important this could be.  We ate, we drank, we tallied, we drank, we turned our votes in and we drank some more.  The waiting began for the results. (It’s very important to note at this time that everyone drank.)

The bell rang and the winners were announced.  The first award given was for the worst tasting meatloaf.  I wasn’t even paying attention…after all there was no way I was going to be in this category.  I wasn’t paying attention…..until they called my name!  WHAT?!?!?!?!  They called my name…. the one who writes and cooks and shares my recipes received the worst tasting meatloaf?! Holy smokes…what just happened?!  I think I might have died a little at that moment.  All  I could do was smile and accept my award with grace and as much dignity as I possibly could in such a boisterous crowd. (remember, I mentioned earlier everyone drank…I want to believe that may have influenced the voting!)

I do want to mention that they showed me the final results on the voting and I was actually one vote shy of tieing for first.  I also placed in the second, and third category.  That did help with the ego factor a bit, but I was still labeled the worst!  But then I got to thinking,   everyone messes up now and then, everyone makes something that someone doesn’t like….even professional chefs don’t always get it right. Right?  Empowered with that knowledge,  I realized that I could go on with life, despite a flawed entry,  and my husband and I continued to have an extremely fun evening with a great group of people.  I had the will and determination to make another meatloaf, and another 364 days to practice at it!

So just wait until next year’s “Don’t Let Your Meatloaf” party…. I’ll be ready for the big comeback.  Just you wait!

THE WINNING MEATLOAF RECIPE by Lynn Fortunato Hodges!

Lynn's winning recipe!
Lynn’s winning recipe!

2 lbs ground chuck mixed with two cans of Rotel (drained).  Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.  Cover 1/2 of a large flour tortilla with sour cream and chive mashed potatoes.  Slice meatloaf and place 4 slices on top of the potatoes.  Sprinkle with a mixture of shredded Mexican cheese and frozen corn.  Top each slice of meatloaf with another spoonful of mashed potatoes.  Fold over the other half of the tortilla and place in a heated frypan with olive oil.  Brown each side of the quesadilla.  Serve with salsa and jalapeno as garnish.

Winner Lynn Fortunato Hodges
Winner Lynn Fortunato Hodges

 

 

 

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