Spaghetti Squash Made Easy

So, this is my second recipe post in a row, I know. What can I say? I like to cook, and the cooler autumn months make that even more enticing.

You don’t have to like squash to like spaghetti squash. It has a very, very mild flavor, and is a great way to sneak in more vegetables and avoid some of the simple carbs that can make you feel logey (rhymes with hoagie for those unfamiliar with the word. Logey = sluggish, and is a word derived from Dutch, used in the Northeastern part of the US, particularly in NY and MA! 🙂 )

I made some this weekend. It takes a bit of time (1.5 hours), but it’s well worth it.

imageStart by preheating the oven to 365-370 degrees F (depending on how “hot” your oven is), and washing a large, smooth spaghetti squash. Slice it vertically.image

Scoop out the “guts” (very much like removing seeds and fibers from a pumpkin when Halloween carving time comes along) and discard them. Now it’s ready to season.

imageEither slice up some garlic (I like a lot) or buy it pre-chopped from the store, which is what I did, because I didn’t have other garlic handy.

imageNote: if you use pre-chopped garlic, you may have to dry it a bit if you want it to “roast” and turn into those brown bits that taste so good.

Place the garlic in the cavities of the squash and then sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Add a mixture of olive oil and vegetable oil (half and half) to the cavity and smear all over the visible parts of the cut squash.

imageRoast in the oven for about an hour. Mine took a little longer. You’ll know it’s done when the flesh pulls back from the skin without too much resistance and begins to “thread” like spaghetti. Use two forks to scrape all the squash from the inside of each half.

imageIt’s ready to serve! Put into a bowl and season with a little more oil, or some butter, and test for whether more salt and pepper is needed.

imageIt’s great as is, but it’s also delicious with your favorite pasta sauce (with or without meat or a sprinkle of parmesan cheese – use the squash just like pasta). If you use a tomato-based sauce, though, let the squash sit for a few minutes first; otherwise, it picks up the liquid from the tomatoes and gets a little watery.

That’s it! Delicious and nutritious.

Has anyone here tried this squash before? Any fans of it with other recipes for using it that you love? Please share in the comments. 🙂

Quick and Easy Meatloaf (like Ma Used to Make)

I have two daughters. One loves meatloaf and the other hates it. So on  nights when the meatloaf-lover is home for supper and her sister isn’t, I like to whip it up for her, which on a work night takes a little planning ahead, since the most difficult part of this recipe is the 45 minutes – an hour it takes to bake.

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix together:

1 – 2 lbs of ground beef or turkey (or a combination thereof) I tend to use grass-fed beef if I go that route, for less fat and better nutrition.

1 – 2 whole eggs

1 TBSP each of garlic powder and onion powder

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1/2 – 3/4 cup bread crumbs (I use panko seasoned crumbs)

1/2 cup tomato sauce (I usually open a 15 oz can, seasoned or plain, your choice). Reserve another cup of the sauce for the top of the loaf.

Optional: 2 TBSP of Worcestershire sauce

imageAfter mixing, form into an oblong loaf (sort of an exaggerated egg shape…longer and flatter is best for even cooking) and place into a bread pan, or a meatloaf pan, like the one I have here, with a little “rack” that lifts the finished loaf out when done.

imageMy mother always used green pepper slices for garnish along the top, so that’s what I like to do too. Pour the reserved tomato sauce over the top. This keeps the loaf nice and moist as it’s baking.

Put it in the oven, and in about an hour, you have your main course! I often use that time to make the side dishes – usually peeling and boiling potatoes for mashed potatoes, and some fresh green beans or peas.

imageIt’s a great autumn or winter meal!

Do you have some favorite additions to meatloaf YOU make? I’m always looking for new tastes to try, so please share in the comments! 🙂

Quick and Easy Lasagna

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Photo courtesy of Sarah Franzen

So, I must be on an Italian food kick lately (maybe it’s the wintery weather that inspires me!), because I made this over the weekend for a six person, family pre-show dinner (we had lots of leftovers). It’s a great recipe for feeding a crowd (just make two pans to feed up to 18 people) and a lot easier and quicker to make than most people think, especially if you opt to use the “no-boil” lasagna noodles.

The pictures in the steps of the recipe below feature the traditional kind, but that was only because my husband “couldn’t find” the no-boil kind in the store. Other than adding about 15 minutes to the prep time, using traditional noodles doesn’t change anything in this recipe.

Here are the ingredients:

  • 1 package of lasagna noodles (boiled if traditional, or right from the box if the no-boil kind)
  • 1 – 2 regular-sized jars of your favorite sauce
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef (or turkey)
  • 1 lb bulk (uncased) sweet (or hot, if you like spicy) Italian sausage
  • 1 TBSP garlic powder
  • 1 TBSP onion powder
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp ground pepper and salt
  • 1 lb part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1/2 lb. 4% milkfat cottage cheese
  • at least 1 lb of grated mozzarella cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

imageIn a large sauce pan, heat a TBSP olive oil on medium high heat and add your ground beef and Italian sausage.

 

 

imageCook and stir until browned, but be careful not to burn. If your meat isn’t especially lean, be sure to drain off any fat before the next step.

imageAdd in all your spices and your jarred sauce.

I sometimes throw in some diced tomatoes, canned or fresh, if I want a little more texture.

Let it cook until it comes to a simmer, with little bubbles, but not a full boil.

Set aside for a bit while you ready the noodles (boiled and drained for traditional, removed from the package for the no-boil kind).

Also, at this point it’s a good idea to get the cheeses out.

Get out a rectangular pan. image9×13 inches is great. Mine is glass, which I think works better than metal, but I’ve seen other use the coated metal pans just fine.

imageSpread a thin layer of the meat sauce on the bottom of the pan.

 

 

 

 

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In a medium mixing bowl, combine the ricotta cheese (NOT the cottage cheese), the basil, oregano, and egg. Mix well.

Now you’re ready to assemble the lasagna.

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Atop the thin layer of sauce in the bottom of the pan, arrange noodles length-wise and slightly overlapping.

 

imageSpread half the ricotta mixture on the noodles, followed by half the cottage cheese. That’s a secret ingredient, as it makes the cheese part of the lasagna really creamy. Sprinkle the whole with a little of the shredded mozzarella. Cover all this with another thin layer of meat sauce.

imageMy sweet Mama taught me to put the second layer of noodles on horizontally (another neat trick) to help the lasagna maintain its structure on the plate, once it’s baked and sliced. Because the noodles are too long for the width of the pan, every noodle has the opposite end folded under and tucked in. Repeat with another layer of cheese and a layer of sauce, and then a final layer of noodles length-wise again.

imageTop with one last layer of meat sauce, and then sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella on top. I like to put the whole thing on a foil-lined cookie pan, to catch any bubbled-up spills.

Pop it in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes, uncovered for traditional noodles, and covered with foil if you used no-bake noodles.

That’s it! The entire process from start to finished product on the table takes about an hour and 15 minutes. Add a salad or some crusty bread if you want (and a nice glass of red wine!), and you have a great, filling meal that’s enough for a crowd but fit for company, too. 🙂

30 Minute (Delicious!) Italian Meatballs

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photo: courtesy of recipeinnovations.com

While I am not of Italian descent, my sweet, 100% Italian mother-in-law gave me her recipe for homemade meatballs, passed down from her mother, and her mother’s mother, who were all from Ancona, Italy, on the Adriatic Sea.

Her recipe requires overnight preparation and at least an hour of cooking, since simmering the meatballs in a pot of homemade sauce is the final step. However, although her recipe is of course much more authentic and to the trained palate undoubtedly tastes superior, it nevertheless serves as the basis for my “quick”, a bit healthier, and almost-as-tasty version.

The ingredients:

1 lb lean ground beef (or you can use ground turkey)

1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs

1 whole egg

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 tsp. salt and pepper

1 tsp. each garlic powder and onion powder

1 tsp. dried basil (or 6 leaves fresh, chopped fine)image

 

Begin by putting the ground beef in a medium-sized bowl.

imageAdd all of the other ingredients and mix. I suggest hand mixing, since it blends everything more fully, but be sure to remove any rings first! 🙂

 

For health reasons, I like to bake, rather than pan-fry my meatballs, so I pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees and prepare a pan (mine is round), lining it with foil and sometimes giving it a spritz of non-stick cooking spray for easy clean up.

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Roll the meatballs out to your preferred size (keep in mind: the bigger the meatball, the longer the cooking time). I like mine this size.

A lb. of ground beef makes 10-12 meatballs, in the size I like.

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After they’re on the pan and the oven is hot, put them in and bake for 20-25 minutes.

 

 

 

 

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They come out nicely browned and ready to pop into sauce, use in a meatball sub, or just eat plain. 🙂

It’s so easy that there’s no reason not to be able to have homemade meatballs even on a busy weeknight after a day of work.

Mangia! And happy eating.