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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Tomato Basil Spaghetti Squash

Everyone loves spaghetti and meatballs.  It's a comforting, filling meal.  But, what if you can't eat pasta? Or what if you're vegan or vegetarian?  You can feel good about eating spaghetti with this twist on a traditional "spaghetti and meatballs" meal.

1 large spaghetti squash
1/2 to 1 jar of spaghetti sauce
8-10 large basil leaves
Parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast
Pre-cooked falafel

Place the squash cut side down in a baking dish and fill the dish with water.  Bake in a 400 degree oven for 45 minutes, until just tender.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool for a few minutes.

Scrape out squash, and add to a 9x9 baking dish, along with 1 to 1/2 jar of pasta sauce, depending on how "saucy" you want it, or how large your squash is.  

Using kitchen scissors, snip basil leaves onto squash, and then mix to combine.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes.

Serve out spaghetti squash.  Top with 1-3 pieces of falafel, parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast.

Sesame Spaghetti Squash

Since I've become gluten-free, spaghetti squash has become a staple around our house.  Not only is it healthier for you than pasta, but it's also delicious!

Most people generally think of using spaghetti squash in a traditional way, by adding in spaghetti sauce.  This is a new spin on how to use this versatile vegetable, and it might have you thinking about spaghetti squash in a whole new light!

1 large spaghetti squash, cut in half, seeds and pulp removed
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
1 clove minced garlic (1/2 tsp)
1/2 tsp dried ginger
1 medium carrot, shredded
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/3 cup tahini (sesame paste)
1 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Place the squash cut side down in a baking dish and fill the dish with water.  Bake in a 400 degree oven for 45 minutes, until just tender.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Lower oven temperature to 350.  Oil a 9x13 baking dish and set aside.

When squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out the spaghetti strands and set aside in a bowl or dish.

In a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of canola, coconut or grapeseed oil over medium heat.  Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic.  Cook for 5 minutes.  Add in ginger, peas and carrot and cook for 1 more minute. Stir in squash pulp and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine tahini, soy sauce, sesame oil and water, stirring until well blended into a creamy sauce.  Stir into the spaghetti squash mixture and toss to combine.

Add the entire mixture into the greased dish.  Cover tightly with foil and bake for about 20 minutes. Top with sesame seeds.

Potato Cheddar Soup

We had a lot of baby potatoes in our CSA share over the last month.  I decided to try making a potato soup, and was very pleased with the results.  It was was very easy to make and quite tasty!

1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped onions
2 cups small, thin-skinned potatoes, washed and quartered
4 cups vegetable broth
1 can great northern beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
Salt to taste
1/4 cup Cabot cheddar cheese powder

Combine the onions, celery and carrots in a large soup pot, along with a tablespoon of oil or butter. Cook for about 10 minutes on medium heat, until softened.

Add in potatoes, beans, broth and spices, and simmer for approximately 20 minutes, until potatoes are soft and easily pierced with a fork.

Add cheddar powder and cook for 5 more minutes.  If you don't have cheddar powder, you could add 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese.

If you wanted to keep this dairy-free, you could add 1/4 cup almond milk for creaminess and 1-2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast to give it a cheesy flavor.

Makes 4-5 servings

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

What do you do when you have a ton of very ripe tomatoes?  Make sauce, of course!

There are so many variations on how to make sauce.  The possibilities are endless.  Here's what I normally do when I make sauce:
  • Wash tomatoes and cut into halves or quarters, removing the hard stem connection part from the top.  Use enough tomatoes to fill a large saucepan, as they will cook down by a lot.
  • Put into a pot with some olive oil, and cook on medium heat, until they have cooked down.  This will take about 15-20 minutes.  Stir and mash the tomatoes occasionally while cooking.
  • Puree the cooked tomatoes with a hand blender until the desired consistency is reached.  Add in a teaspoon of baking soda to reduce the acidity, if desired.
  • Add in a few teaspoons of minced garlic, a few teaspoons of capers, 1/2 tsp onion powder, 1/4 cup red wine and hand full of fresh basil.  
  • Using the immersion blender again, pulse a few times to chop up the basil into smaller pieces. 
  • Continue cooking until the desired thickness is achieved.
This will store in your refrigerator for at least a week.

Coconut Flour - A Gluten-Free Alternative

In the expansion of the gluten-free ingredients in my pantry, I've recently added coconut flour.  I've read a lot about it, and you can do much more than you would think with this versatile ingredient!  I found a great Web site with all kinds of gluten-free recipes that use coconut flour.  I was worried about what I was going to do for holiday baking this year, but I think this is my answer!

I purchased my coconut flour from an online company, called Tropical Traditions.  They have a huge library of gluten-free recipes, so I highly recommend checking them out!

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Balls

Bringing desserts to a party is my normal procedure.  That's usually what people ask me to bring when I ask what they need.  In the past year, that's been a bit more challenging, since I can't eat anything with gluten.  I made the mistake earlier this year of making "normal" brownies to bring to a party. They looked so good that I had to try one to see how they came out, and ended up feeling horrible for three days afterwards.  Definitely not worth the pain!

What does one do when they can't eat gluten, but want something that everyone will like?  My answer was something with nut butters.  Usually everyone loves peanut butter.  You can't go wrong.  And peanut butter and chocolate are a winning combination.  What makes this even better is that no baking is involved, so it's great when you're in a rush, or it's hot out and you don't want to heat up your kitchen.

1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup chocolate chips
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons coconut flour

Thoroughly mix all ingredients together in a bowl. If the mixture is too sticky, add more coconut flour; if it's too dry, add more peanut butter.

Roll into peanut butter mixture into small balls using your hands or a cookie scoop.  Store in the refrigerator.

This makes about 16 peanut butter balls.  I tripled the recipe, since I wanted to make sure I had enough for everyone at the party.   They were a hit, so I'm glad I made more than one batch!

Bourbon Maple Roasted Squash

Fall is one of my favorite times of year.  I love the cooler weather, the crispness in the air, and all the colors and scents of the season.  I also love all the seasonal fall foods, particularly squashes.

Baked squash is a favorite side dish of mine, especially bourbon maple roasted squash.  It just doesn't get any better than this.  It smells amazing while cooking, too!

2 small squash cut in half with seeds and pulp removed (I like to use delicata squash)
4 tsp Butter or margarine
4 tsp Maple syrup
4 tsp bourbon

Place squash cut side up in the baking dish.  Fill the center of each squash with 1 teaspoon each of butter, maple syrup and bourbon. Sprinkle the tops of each filled squash with allspice.  Cover baking dish with foil and bake at 375 for 40-45 minutes.

Egg Poacher Alternative

We get a dozen fresh eggs in our CSA share every week, so we've been eating a lot of eggs.  We like to hard boil them to put on salads, make egg salad, or eat as a snack, but we have an impossible time peeling the cooked eggs.  I have tried every tip I can find online to make peeling easier, but nothing is working.  I started to think about poaching the eggs as a way to get around the peeling issue.

Ever since I was very little, I've loved poached eggs.  I'm not sure why I like them so much, but they were always my favorite.  My parents used to have an egg poacher machine, and the eggs would come out perfectly every time.

For years, I've looked in kitchen stores for an egg poacher to add to my kitchen.  Any that I've found are non-stick, and I don't do non-stick stuff - it's bad news!  I also looked at those "Eggies" things they've been advertising like crazy on TV, but after reading the reviews, I wouldn't go near those with a 50-foot pole!

I decided to improvise and make my own egg poacher.  I tried a few different variations of egg poaching vessels, and they all worked well.  Here's what I did:
  • Using small custard cups or small ceramic cups, oil the inside of each cup and place into a large soup pot.  
  • Fill the pot with water, so the water level is about 1/2 inch from the top of each custard cup.  
  • Cover the pot, and bring the water to a boil.  
  • Once boiling, crack an egg into each cup and cover the pot again.  
  • Depending upon how you want your yolk, cook about 4 minutes for a runnier yolk and about 7-8 minutes for more of a hard-boiled yolk consistency.
  • Using tongs, remove each cup from the pot.  Using a butter knife, go around the inside of each cup to release the egg.  
I put into a sealed storage container and they lasted me all week.  These eggs can be used in the same way as a hard-boiled egg, without spending forever peeling.

Roasted Turnip and Pumpkin Soup

One of Lee's favorite soups is pumpkin soup.  Last week, we got some more Japanese turnips in our CSA share, so I decided to do a new spin on my traditional pumpkin soup recipe.  I was very pleased with the results and will definitely make this again!

2 cups turnips, chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 cup chopped onions
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups of canned pumpkin (1 can) or 2 cups of cubed pumpkin or butternut squash
4 cups vegetable broth
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp black pepper
Sea salt to taste

Combine the turnips, garlic, onions and olive oil in a baking dish.  If you are using a whole squash or pumpkin, you can also add the peeled, cubed squash or pumpkin to the baking dish.  Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes, until the squash and turnip are soft.

Transfer baked mixture to a large soup pot.  Add in vegetable broth, canned pumpkin (if not using fresh in the step above), bay leaves, honey or maple syrup, nutmeg, black pepper and salt.  Cover and heat to boiling.

Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for about 20 minutes.

Remove bay leaves.  Puree soup using a hand blender.