Saturday, February 22, 2014

Roasted Spaghetti Squash Two Ways

This was a homegrown spaghetti squash project that's been lingering for a while. David grew about ten of them this year and they are so good with just olive oil, salt and pepper, roasted in the oven until the tops turn brown and the rind peels away. A little Parmesan cheese or quick tomato sauce over spaghetti squash makes a fast dinner!

These last three squashes were smallish ones, so we par-cooked them in the microwave and then finished them in the oven while the sauce cooked. If you have small ones like we did you can serve it right out of the shell.

To prepare each spaghetti squash for cooking, cut off the top and bottom, slice in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds.

1 or more spaghetti squash, prepared as above
Olive oil
One small or half a large sweet yellow onion, diced
Four cloves garlic, chopped
Four ripe tomatoes, diced
Parmesan cheese for serving

Preheat the oven to 375.

If par-cooking the spaghetti squash, cook the halves in the microwave on high for 4-8 minutes, depending on size, while dicing the remaining vegetables.

Drizzle the squash halves with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet in the oven cut side up and roast at 375 until the tops begin to brown and the skins are soft, or pierced easily with a knife.

While the squashes are cooking, make the tomato sauce. Heat olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat and when hot, add the onion and cook, stirring, until translucent. Add the chopped garlic and cook for one minute. Add the diced tomatoes and juice and cook for ten minutes over medium heat, until the tomatoes are soft. Season to taste with salt and pepper or fresh Italian herbs if you have them (basil, oregano or thyme).

When squash is cooked remove from oven. With a fork, scrape the squash from the rind. Spoon tomato sauce over one half, grate Parmesan cheese and sprinkle over the other half.

Healthy, easy and delicious! Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Healthy Eating: Penne with Broccoli and Sundried Tomatoes

It's time to get back to some healthy eating!  Usually my cooking is reserved for comfort foods, carb bombs, and rich/creamy/gooey anything.  This creation is the result of overbuying broccoli at the farmer's market last Saturday (seriously, an enormous bag of broccoli for $3... couldn't pass it up).  I like it roasted or steamed, but this one is mixed with whole grain pasta and sundried tomatoes for a light dinner.

I used a cooking technique I got from this recipe by the Pioneer Woman.  It creates a light sauce without a lot of fat.


One large or two medium chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
Two tablespoons flour, seasoned generously with salt and pepper
Two cloves garlic, minced or sliced
One or two heads broccoli, cut into florets (about 6 cups)
One bottle white wine
One pound box whole grain penne or similar-sized pasta
One cup sundried tomatoes (if using the kind packed in oil, decrease wine by 1 cup)

Set a large pot of salted water on high heat for the pasta and broccoli.

Heat about two tablespoons of olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat.  Dice the chicken breast and coat it very lightly in the seasoned flour.  (I put it all in a Ziploc bag and shake it up.  The chicken does not have to be completely coated).  Cook the chicken until browned on all sides but do not over cook.  Remove cooked chicken to a plate and cover with foil or another plate to keep warm.

Keep the pan over medium heat and add a tablespoon of olive oil if it is dry.  Saute the garlic for one minute, until fragrant.  Increase the heat to medium high and add 3/4 of the bottle of wine to deglaze.  Stir, scraping the bottom of the pan to release the pan drippings.  Add the sundried tomatoes and cook over medium heat, until sauce begins to reduce and the tomatoes are softened.  When sauce has reached desired thickness, add the reserved chicken and juices and cover to keep warm.

When the salted water is boiling, add the pasta and stir.  About halfway through the cooking time, add the broccoli florets.  When pasta is cooked, drain the pasta and broccoli, reserving 1 cup of the water.

Return the pasta to the pot and add the wine sauce, stirring to combine.  Add some of the reserved pasta water if the sauce is too dry.

Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Mussels in Smoky Roasted Tomato Broth

This recipe is my own creation!  Well actually, it was inspired by another "Mussels in Smoky Tomato Broth" recipe.  I found one somewhere online and bookmarked it.  Months later I was heartbroken to discover the page no longer existed!  I searched and searched, but the recipe was lost forever.

I have struggled to remember what inspired me to make this and recreated it here, with the addition of roasted vegetables for extra smokiness.

Be sure to buy the mussels at the last minute.  I once bought mine too far in advance, put them in the fridge and found about half of them had opened before I had a chance to clean them.  Rinse them with very cold water, remove the beards and place them in a bowl of ice until ready to cook.  If any are open, tap them gently and if they don't close, discard them.

Four tomatoes, any type
1 bunch small green onions, cut diagonally in about 2 inch pieces
One bottle beer (I used a wheat beer, but ale would also work)
One 9 oz tube pork chorizo (I used El Mexicano from Savemart)
One pound mussels, cleaned and debearded (discard any that are open)

Cut the tomatoes into thick rounds, about three slices each.  Arrange on a baking sheet and roast at 400 until they are brown, about 30 minutes.  Remove to a large cutting board and add the green onions to the hot oven for about five minutes.

Heat a large pot over medium high heat and cook chorizo, breaking up with a spoon.  Cook until heated through.

While chorizo is cooking, cut the tomatoes into smaller pieces.  When chorizo is cooked add the green onions and the tomatoes and their juice to the pot.

Heat the used baking pan over medium.  When the pan is hot, turn off the burner and deglaze with the beer, scraping with the spoon to break up the cooked tomato juices.  Add all the beer to the pot.

When it simmers, add the mussels and cover.  Cook for 3-5 minutes.  When the mussels have opened they are cooked.

Ladle the mussels and broth into a shallow bowl and serve with thick baguette slices to sop up the broth.


Friday, February 7, 2014

Superbowl Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Jack Daniels BBQ Sauce

Pulled pork will always be one of my favorite things to make.  It's a huge crowd pleaser, makes a ton and you can change it up a hundred different ways.

It's perfect Superbowl food.

You can make the pork and the sauce in advance, then in the morning put everything in the slow cooker to stay warm so you can hang with your guests when they arrive, or bring it with you ready-to-serve.

I like mine on a cheap hamburger bun (nothing gourmet about this meal) topped with a little cole slaw (super simple: a bag of pre-cut slaw mix and a dressing of mayo, mustard, sugar and vinegar).  You could further simplify the recipe by using store-bought barbecue sauce.

But obviously I can't do that.

Start with a nice big pork shoulder, bone in or out. Put it in a slow cooker, pour two cups of coffee over it, and cover with salt and pepper. Cook on low overnight, up to 12-15 hours.
Allow to cool for an hour, then pull apart into chunks, removing any big yucky fat globs.

To make the barbecue sauce:
Chop 1/2 onion and mince 2 or 3 cloves garlic. Heat olive oil in a saucepan and sauté until browned.
Deglaze the pan with about 2/3 cup Jack Daniels.
Add about 1 cup raisins & bring to a boil.
Add two cups apple cider vinegar, 1 cup apple cider, 1/4 cup Worcestershire and 2/3 cup soy sauce. Bring up to boil and add 1/4 cup molasses, 1 cup brown sugar and a 6 oz can tomato paste.
Peel an orange, squeeze the segments and drop them in. Season with 2 tablespoons chipotle peppers in adobo, 1 tablespoon smoked paprika, and a pinch each of allspice and ground cloves.
Boil until thickened and taste for seasoning. Add more soy sauce for salt, or apple cider if too tangy. The sauce should be on the thin side when finished, then run it through a food processor or blender.
Drizzle the hot BBQ sauce over the pulled pork and return to the slow cooker on warm or low setting to serve.

Serve a gob of pork on a hamburger bun and top with cole slaw.