Sauteed Spaghetti Squash

I will readily admit that Spaghetti Squash has never been a favorite. That’s probably an understatement – I couldn’t stand it. So, I wasn’t very excited to get two from our CSA – they hung out in my pantry for a few weeks as I pondered whether to try them or to give them away. Yes, yes, I know…shameful. In the end, I consulted with a few great cooks and decided to keep them and give them another try. I’m happy to report that this preparation changed my mind. This was a total hit with the family! I served it as a side dish alongside pork chops. You can change the herbs and the amounts for what you prefer but the sage was absolutely amazing.

Sautéed Spaghetti Squash

SAUTEED SPAGHETTI SQUASH
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2 sm-med. Spaghetti Squash
4 Tb. butter (you could sub olive oil if you are vegan)
1 large clove garlic, minced
2-3 Tb. Fresh Sage
1-2 Tb. Fresh Parsley
1-2 tsp. Fresh Oregano
Salt & Pepper to taste

Cut Spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Place cut side down on a shallow baking sheet (like a bar pan or jelly roll pan). Add water to 1/2 inch. Cover with foil and bake at 375 for 45 minutes, uncover and bake for another 10-15 minutes (I actually turned mine over). Scrape out seeds. In a separate bowl, scrape out the squash.

In a skillet, melt butter. Add garlic and herbs. Cook for a few minutes until garlic is softened and the herbs are aromatic. Add the squash and sauté for 5 minutes until heated through and combined with butter and herbs. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

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Broccoli Cheddar Soup

It’s officially winter now. Snow is clinging to the trees. The short walk to my car is a bit treacherous with icy patches. Wind whistles around the house and pushes its way through the cracks in my old, leaky windows. And when I approach the kitchen each evening, soup is often my first thought. Alas, my husband is not as much a lover of soups as I am. However, over the three and a half years we’ve been married, I’ve been slowly bringing him around by concocting soups that cause the memories of canned soups to fade away. While I won’t serve soup every single night, I make sure it gets a good rotation in our dinners.

If you’re at all like me and love a good soup or stew on these blustery, winter evenings, then stay tuned throughout the month of January as we hope to bring you several new recipes. (One minor aside, I don’t think soup generally photographs well at all.)

Health and added veggies and fruits are often top priority at the start of the new year. We all want to make changes and somehow the turning of the calendar year creates a perfect clean slate opportunity. Broccoli Cheddar Soup might not come to mind as a thoroughly healthful soup, but when Food Network’s Ellie Krieger is the brains behind the recipe, it’s bound to be a lightened up version. This soup takes just a bit longer as you make a simple cheese sauce to add to the soup, but it’s definitely worth the effort. For a quicker prep, I used frozen broccoli florets.

BROCCOLI CHEDDAR SOUP
(from Comfort Food Fix by Ellie Krieger)
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2 tsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4-1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (opt.)
1 large head broccoli, florets and tender part of stem chopped (about 6 cups)
3 c. chicken broth
2 c. milk
2 Tbsp flour or cornstarch
1 1/4 c. lightly packed shredded sharp cheddar cheese (5 ounces)
1/2 tsp salt, plus more to taste
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and nutmeg and cook for 30 seconds. Add the broccoli and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook until the broccoli is tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool slightly, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, whisk together the milk and flour/cornstarch, until dissolved. Heat the mixture over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened, about 3 minutes. Add one cup of the cheese and cook, stirring, until melted, 2 minutes more. Removed from the heat and cover to keep warm.

Use an immersion blender and puree the broccoli mixture, until it is mostly smooth with a few chunks. (Alternatively, if you don’t have an immersion blender, puree one cup at a time in a blender.) Stir in the cheese mixture, season with salt and pepper, and cook over low heat until warmed through. Serve topped with the remaining cheese. Serves 4.

Just Desserts: Sour Cream Strawberry Custard

I stumbled across this recipe when flipping through a Rachael Ray magazine and jotted it down to try sometime. With a couple days off this weekend and the possibility of springier weather, I decided to give it a try. And Yum!!! Jeremy said this was better than ice cream or vanilla yogurt (both of which he is quite a fan). I say, this recipe is delicious and simple, coming together in about 15 minutes.

And, I’ll let you in on a little secret, I cut back on the sugar. I put 4 Tablespoons of sugar in the custard and 2 Tablespoons of sugar on the strawberries. I also used 1/3 cup heavy cream and 2/3 cup 1% milk in place of the half and half. And I subbed in about 1/3 cup plain yogurt in place of all sour cream. I’ve included the original recipe below, but feel free to mess around with it as it suits your needs.

This makes a perfect dessert during strawberry season. It’s elegant enough for company, but easy enough just to whip up a batch for the family. I hope you enjoy this as much as we did!

SOUR CREAM STRAWBERRY CUSTARD
(from Every Day With Rachael Ray, May 2010)
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1 1/2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin (such as Knox brand)
2 1/2 Tablespoon cold water
1 cup half and half
6 Tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
2 cups sliced strawberries
3 Tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water. Set aside.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the half and half with the 6 Tablespoons of sugar, stirring until the sugar has melted. Whisk in the vanilla and the softened gelatin, then whisk in the sour cream.

Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until set, about 2 hours.

Meanwhile, toss the sliced strawberries with the 3 Tablespoons of sugar and the balsamic vinegar. Cover and refrigerate.

Top the custard with the balsamic strawberries. Serves 4.

Simple Supper: Bacon-Wrapped Salmon

Salmon is a staple simple supper in our house. (If you have an Aldi close by, that’s the perfect place to buy salmon at $4 a pound in their frozen food section!) I usually just wing the seasoning, but occasionally I like to try out a “real” recipe. 🙂

This recipe is delicious and so simple. In just 20 minutes supper was on the table. The bacon keeps the salmon super moist. And seriously, who doesn’t love bacon-wrapped food?!

BACON-WRAPPED SALMON
(adapted from Epicurious.com)
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4 center-cut pieces skinless salmon fillet (about 1 1/2 inches thick)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
4 bacon slices
Special equipment: 4  metal skewers (which I didn’t have, but would have made it all easier!)

Preheat broiler and place broiler pan about 4-6 inches from heat.

Pat fish dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper, then spread curved sides with mustard. Lay 1 bacon slice lengthwise along top of each fillet, tucking ends of bacon under fillet (ends will not meet). Thread 1 skewer through length of each fillet, entering and exiting through bacon to secure it.

Arrange fish, bacon sides down, on preheated rack of broiler pan and broil 3 minutes, then turn over and broil until fish is just cooked through and bacon is crisp, 3 to 4 minutes more.

(Cooks Note: If you are using frozen fillets, let them thaw slightly first so they cook evenly.)

As a bonus, I’m going to share a roasted asparagus “recipe” to cook and serve alongside the salmon.

LEMON PARMESAN ROASTED ASPARAGUS
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asparagus, woody ends removed
olive oil
salt
lemon-pepper
Parmesan cheese
fresh lemon juice

Break off woody ends from asparagus. Wash and pat dry. Lay asparagus in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and lemon pepper. (Use your discretion with quantities.)

While salmon is broiling, slide asparagus into oven. When you take out the salmon to flip it over, remove asparagus and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, continue to broil until salmon is cooked through. Just before serving, sprinkle asparagus with fresh lemon juice.

(Cooks Note: If you’re not making this alongside the salmon, preheat oven to 425°F instead of to broil. You’ll have to cook just a couple minutes longer.)

Kids in the Kitchen: Easy Lunch

Some of my favorite childhood memories are in the kitchen. We learned to cook about as soon as we could count. I want my children to have wonderful memories of us cooking together so I’m always looking for creative ways to include them in meal preparation or in making snacks.

My older boys are 4 and they are always eager to help. And I find that if they have helped to make something, they are very likely to find it tasty. It’s a great way to help picky kids eat vegetables or different types of food. So my boys made lunch (with supervision, of course) and here is what they made.

ENGLISH MUFFIN PIZZA
3 english muffins, split*
1-8 oz. can of tomato sauce**
2 Tb. Italian Seasoning
1 – 1/2 c. shredded cheese
toppings

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Mix the tomato sauce and the Italian seasoning together (or if your kiddos are older, they can do this themselves). Prepare any toppings you want. We used green pepper, cherry tomatoes, and chopped, fresh spinach but anything would be good – mushrooms, pepperoni, onion, pineapple, ham, sausage, whatever you have on hand.

Let the kids build their own pizza! Mine were very serious and very excited about this as they carefully created their masterpieces.

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Put under the broiler (I set mine to low) for about 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted and starting to turn golden.

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ENJOY!

While the pizza where baking, I cleaned and cut some celery for the boys to make ants on a log.

ANTS ON A LOG
Celery
Peanut Butter or Cream Cheese
Dried Fruit, Nuts, and/or Seeds***

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I spread the peanut butter on the celery but again, if you have an older child, they could do that. We used a dried fruit mix and the boys went to work.

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They loved making these and they gobbled them up!

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*You could also use bagels, tortillas, or regular sliced bread. 
** There will be leftover sauce – you can save it for another day or put it in your pasta sauce or nearly any recipe that calls for tomato sauce.
***Raisins are the traditional topping for ants on a log but don’t let that stop you from trying something new! Even flavored cream cheese would be good! 

Enjoy cooking with your kids – yes, sometimes it takes longer and sometimes it messier but the memories you will make will more than make up for those small inconveniences!