People often rave about spaghetti squash as a tasty alternative to pasta. When roasted, it should be easy to scrape the flesh into long, thin strands—hence the name. This was not the case for me, however. The couple of times I tried to make spaghetti squash, it didn’t look much like noodles to me. More like a big pile of mush.

And then I saw this method on the blog Steamy Kitchen where the blogger throws the entire squash into the oven, uncut, and leaves it in there for an hour. When it emerges she lets it cool, then slices it open, removes the seeds and scrapes the squash into long, luxurious strands. My farmers market still has spaghetti squash, so I picked one up and decided to give this a try because really, what could be easier than throwing an entire vegetable into the oven and forgetting about it for a while? And it worked! The squash emerged fork tender and when I cut it open the strands shredded as promised. From there I sauted it with a generous amount of butter, parmigiano, parsley and garlic, as Steamy Kitchen recommended. We ate this tasty dish as a side, but with an addition of chicken or shrimp, it could easily become a main dish!

Spaghetti Squash with Parsley, Parmigiano and Garlic (from Steamy Kitchen)

1 small spaghetti squash (about 3-4 pounds)

2 tablespoons butter

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1/4 cup finely minced parsley (or basil)

1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

1/4 cup shredded Parmigiano

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Pierce squash a few times with sharp paring knife (to let steam escape). Bake spaghetti squash for 60 minutes, or until a paring knife pierces easily through skin with little resistance. Let squash cool for 10 minutes.

Cut squash in half, lengthwise. Use a fork to remove and discard the seeds. Continue using fork to scrape the squash to get long, lovely strands. If the squash seem difficult to scrape, return the squash to bake for an additional 10 minutes.

Heat a large saute pan with the butter and the garlic over medium-low heat. When garlic becomes fragrant, add parsley, salt and spaghetti squash strands. Toss well, sprinkle in the  cheese and taste to see if you need additional salt. The spaghetti squash should have a slight crunch (i.e. not mushy) – but if you like it softer, cover the pan and cook 2 more minutes.

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Coconut Milk Mint Chocolate Truffles

by Michelle on January 19, 2015

I am a huge dark chocolate lover. I eat it every day and on the rare occasion when my stash runs out, I have been known to hit up the dark chocolate chips in my pantry. So when I came upon this recipe on Instagram, I knew I would be making these ASAP. Like the flourless brownie muffins, these truffles were posted by wendy_martinezb, a personal trainer with a wealth of healthy, inventive recipes. These are no exception. They don’t contain refined sugar yet they’re deliciously rich, so one should satisfy your craving. Plus, they’re easy to make, saving that chocolate stash from ever becoming low again.

Coconut Milk Mint Chocolate Truffles

Makes 12 truffles

5 ounces dark chocolate, 70 percent Cacao or higher, finely chopped

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1/2 cup light coconut milk

1/2 teaspoon pure mint extract

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (Go for the good stuff, Dutch processed, if possible.)

Place chocolate, coconut oil, and mint extract in a small bowl and mix well. Set aside. In a small saucepan, bring coconut milk to a gentle boil, then add it to the chocolate mixture, whisking gently until combined. Place chocolate mixture in a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least four hours or overnight. Using a melon baller or scoop, scoop out one tablespoon of the chocolate mixture. Roll into a ball and then roll in the cocoa powder. Repeat with the remaining truffles. Store in the fridge for up to a week or the freezer for three months.

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Rigatoni with Kale, Walnuts and Sausage

by Michelle on January 9, 2015

Happy New Year! It’s been quite a while since my last post and for good reason: as many of you know, my daughter, Aria, was born on September 25. She is the missing piece to our little family and we are so blessed and grateful that she is here. Cooking, writing, and general creativity have gone by the wayside since then, however, as I adjust to life as a mother of two. But slowly, my brain is beginning to return and I have found the time and energy to experiment in the kitchen now and again. Last night was just such an occasion and the recipe was so delightful, I needed to share.

So I’ve been seeing “Likes” on Facebook for a service called Blue Apron. I’ve noticed many of these services cropping up (Plated is another one) where pre-portioned ingredients arrive at your door, ready for you to turn them into a delicious meal. Blue Apron was intriguing to me because it promised “seasonal ingredients from artisanal purveyors” which is right up my alley. I don’t need to sign up for Blue Apron meals as I am home most days and can chop my own vegetables—albeit while wearing a baby— but I liked that they offer free recipes on their site. A pasta dish made with linguine, kale and walnuts caught my eye because I had a bunch of Lacinato kale in my fridge, it is freezing out, and I wanted a hearty winter meal.

I made a few changes: subbing out the linguine for rigatoni, which is Johnny’s favorite pasta, using regular old walnuts, because I didn’t have red (nor have I ever heard of such a thing) and swapping Parmigiano for Pecorino because I had it in the fridge. I also added chicken sausage because why not, right? The results were fantastic: an incredibly tasty, easy meal that will fill your belly on a cold winter’s night. I never think to pair yellow onion with kale, but I really should because the sweetness of the onions complements the kale beautifully.  I let Johnny take the leftovers for lunch today and I am starting to regret that decision. Anyway, add these ingredients to your shopping list and make this dish soon—and often!

Rigatoni with Kale, Walnuts and Sausage (adapted from Blue Apron)

Serves 3-4

1/2 pound rigatoni (I used ShopRite’s organic version which is really good.)

1 bunch of Lacinato kale, stemmed and leaves roughly chopped

1 package of chicken sausage (I used Al Fresco Roasted Garlic but I also really like Trader Joe’s chicken sausage.)

3 cloves of garlic, smashed into a paste (Or chopped really fine. Somehow the paste thing never quite works for me.)

The zest and juice of 1 lemon

3 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons walnuts, roughly chopped

1/4 cup Parmigiano cheese, grated (I didn’t measure this, I just eyeballed it, because a little extra cheese is never a bad thing.)

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Olive oil

Bring a large pot of water to boil and preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Meanwhile, heat a large, dry pan on medium-high until hot. Add the walnuts and toast, stirring occasionally, 3 to 4 minutes, or until lightly browned and fragrant. Transfer to a bowl. Wipe out the pan.

When the oven is ready, put the sausages in and let brown, flipping occasionally, about 7-9 minutes. In the same pan used to toast the nuts, heat 1 tablespoon of the butter and 1 teaspoon of olive oil on medium until hot. Add the garlic paste. Cook, stirring constantly, 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until fragrant and golden brown. Add the breadcrumbs and cook, stirring frequently, 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden brown and toasted. Transfer to a bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. Wipe out the pan.

Add the pasta to the pot of boiling water. Cook until just shy of al dente (still slightly firm to the bite), about 1 to 2 minutes less than the package suggests.  Reserve ¾ cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta thoroughly. Set aside.

While the pasta cooks, in the same pan used to make the garlic breadcrumbs, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium until hot. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, 4 to 5 minutes, or until softened. Add the kale and ¼ cup of water; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, 4 to 5 minutes, or until the kale has wilted.

To the pan of onions and kale, add the lemon zest, remaining butter, pasta, lemon juice, ½ cup of the reserved pasta water, the cheese and as much of the red pepper flakes as you’d like. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring constantly, 1 to 2 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. (If the sauce seems dry, add the remaining pasta water until you achieve your desired consistency.) Top with the garlic breadcrumbs, more Parmigiano and toasted walnuts. Enjoy!

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