Simple Spaghetti Squash Taco Bake

Meet my friend spaghetti squash. She’s easy to get along with and a very good influence. She should be your friend too. Ok, I’m going to drop this metaphor now that I am going to tell you how to bake her in the oven. First, preheat to 400 degrees.

Warning! If you have knives in need of sharpening (like mine), you will want to pop your squash into the microwave for a minute or two. This will soften the rind just enough to eliminate the chances of accidentally stabbing yourself. Then cut it in half the long way (“hotdog,” not “hamburger” as my kids would say). Scoop out all the seeds and slimy stuff in the middle, leaving the “spaghetti” flesh intact.

Grab a rimmed cookie sheet (a.k.a. jellyroll pan) and add a little water to it. Place the spaghetti squash cut side down onto the water. Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes. (Meanwhile, start your taco meat.)

I have read several spaghetti squash recipes that say to cook it for 45 minutes. It has never taken mine that long, and you do NOT want to overcook it or it will be mushy and watery, so I tend to check it after 20 minutes and go from there. If you can easily stab a fork into it, and especially if you can squeeze the rind (USE POTHOLDERS!) to make the flesh pop out, it’s done. Scrape all the spaghetti out with a fork, then sprinkle it with salt to hold in the moisture and give it some good flavor.

Please note, this recipe is incredibly simple, but it can be time-consuming. If you make the spaghetti squash and/or taco meat ahead of time, this becomes a quick weeknight success. You’ll notice my family liked it so much, I only got a photo of half of it!

Ingredients:
Spaghetti squash, prepared
1 pound taco meat, prepared
Diced bell peppers
4 oz. cream cheese
Shredded cheese to preference
S&P to taste
Sour cream, avocado, salsa, crushed tortilla chips (optional garnishes)

Quick directions: Bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

Directions:
1. Prepare a 9×13 casserole pan with your choice of nonstick medium, then spread the prepared spaghetti squash on the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
2. Melt the 4 oz (half a block) of cream cheese into your prepared taco meat.
3. Add diced bell peppers to the taco meat. Mix well.
4. Spread taco meat mixture on top of spaghetti squash.
5. Top with shredded cheese to your preference.
6. Bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes.
7. Garnish with sour cream, avocado, salsa, tortilla chips, etc. Enjoy!

Mexi-Cauli One Pan

I don’t know, you guys. I think it’s impossible to make a bowl of ground turkey and cauliflower rice look appetizing. I tried my best, but you might just have to take my word for it. It’s delicious.

I am a huge fan of cauliflower rice. You can prep a ton of it ahead of time, and it is super easy to cook in a hurry. It adds body to any recipe, and takes on the flavor of whatever you cook it with. My favorite is to throw it into Mexican cuisine.

This particular dish is extremely versatile. I actually don’t know if what I’m writing here and what is in this picture are exactly the same because I’ve made it 100 different ways. This recipe is a good starting point, but feel free to get creative with whatever you have handy.

Ingredients:
– 1 pound taco meat, whatever that means to you.
– 1-2 cups sliced or chopped peppers – any color bell pepper, serrano, and/or jalapeño, as preferred.
– 1 can corn
– 3 cups cauliflower rice
– 1 cup salsa (or 3/4 cup enchilada sauce or 1/4 cup adobo sauce)
– 3 oz (or 1/3 of brick) cream cheese
– Optional garnishes: Avocado, tomatoes, lettuce, tortilla strips/chips, lime wedge

Directions:

1. Cook up some taco meat. I personally use ground turkey, but I know others prefer hamburger. You do you. (If you don’t have a prepared taco seasoning on hand, combine: cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper instead.)
2. Add in peppers. I typically have bell peppers of some color on hand, but you could easily use Serrano peppers and even some jalapeños if you want some kick.
3. Add in corn.
4. Once your peppers get tender, add in the cauliflower rice, mix, and cook all of it together.
5. Next, add in 3 or so ounces of cream cheese.  Melt down and stir in well.
6. Stir in 1 cup of salsa (other options: 3/4 cup red or green enchilada sauce or 1/4 cup adobo sauce – dice up some of the chipotle peppers it usually comes with as well).
7. Serve alone or garnish with tomatoes, avocado, lettuce, a squeeze of lime, and/or tortilla strips.

To Make the Cauliflower Rice:
If you want to prep it ahead of time, go ahead and grab a few heads of cauliflower. Cut it into florets and wash it. Once you’ve got your clean cauliflower florets, it’s time to rice them. I have a super cool contraption that does it in like two seconds, but I don’t get paid to advertise for them, so I’m not telling you what it is. 🙂 Feel free to use your own super cool contraption, or a food processor or blender. (If you are ricing by hand with a cheese grater, I’m really sorry, but I bet your forearms will look amazing.)
Bag up 3 cups at a time and freeze flat. When you’re ready to use it, just dump it directly into a pan to steam. It takes maybe five minutes to cook. (Side note: when using with a curry dish, cook it with a few tablespoons of canned coconut milk – the thick part. Mmmm…)

Bonus Tip: Washing Cauliflower
Let’s talk about washing fruits and vegetables for a second. It’s a pain, am I right? Here’s a tip: Fill up your salad spinner with water and add 1 cup of vinegar (white or apple cider). Soak your veggies and fruit in there, then pull out the colander part and rinse them in there. And yes, I said VINEGAR. It’s a fantastic natural cleaner, and I promise it will not make everything taste like sauerkraut.

Blueberry Maple Overnight Oats

I have such a love/hate thing going on with breakfast. I mean, DONUTS. Need I say more? Can’t live without ‘em…can’t eat ‘em everyday. So, what are we to do the other 6 days of the week when we are scrambling out the door with one shoe on and half-dried hair feeling lucky that the office supplies semi-drinkable coffee? That’s where these beauties come in. I prep a whole batch of mason jar oats on a Sunday, and the hubby and I are both set for the week (leaving Friday open for donuts, of course.)

There are countless ways to make overnight oats, so feel free to sub things out and get creative. This is what I have found to be easy for me to make, packs my morning with protein, and tastes good enough to make me want to eat it 4 days a week.

First, the oats – so controversial. Seriously, why so much drama with the oats? Anyway, there are some great articles out there about how you can soak them overnight to make them easier to digest, and there is plenty of debate about whether to go with old fashioned, steel cut, organic, or some other type of grain or grain substitute. I’m just trying to make your morning a little easier, so I will skip the oat essay. Most recently, I happened to use steel cut oats I bought in bulk. And this batch, I didn’t soak overnight, but sometimes I do. Either way, you still end up cooking them according to the package directions, then add pure maple syrup and some cinnamon.

Now, the “goop.” I will try to figure out how to add another photo into this blog so you can see my layers, but the goop is key.  The base of the goop is plain Greek yogurt. In my opinion, the higher fat content, the better it tastes. Mix up your favorite vanilla protein powder with some almond milk (or regular milk if you prefer), then mix that into the yogurt. Don’t mix the protein powder directly into the yogurt. It will feel like you are eating sand. No one likes that. Dump the goop over the oats. Sounds appetizing, right? Just trust me on this.

Last, the toppings. Chopped walnuts are an awesome addition nutrition and flavor-wise. Fruit is a must to add more sweetness and flavor. I used to always do fresh blueberries, but one day I ran out and threw some frozen mixed berries in there, and it actually worked better! Now I use either frozen mixed berries or frozen blueberries. The mixed ones are more flavorful, but the plain blueberries make it this gorgeous purple color when you mix it up. And starting your morning by eating something purple is just kind of magical.

Recipe (8 servings):

The oats:

4 C oats, prepared – Add 1/2 C in bottom of small mason jar

1/4 C pure maple syrup – mix into prepared oats

Also add cinnamon, to taste.

The “goop”:

2 C plain Greek yogurt (the fatter, the better)

1 scoop vanilla protein powder mixed into 1 cup almond (or regular) milk until dissolved.

Mix the yogurt with the milk mixture.

Put 1/4 C “goop” over the oats in each jar.

Toppings:

Add chopped walnuts, if desired, to each jar.

Add fresh fruit right away or frozen fruit the morning of.

When you’re ready for breakfast, mix it all up together and eat cold.

 

 

 

 

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Brown Butter Sauce

Warning: This is not your typical recipe blog.  I am not claiming to be a great cook. Gordon Ramsay would be so appalled at my knife skills, he wouldn’t even be able to blast me with a string of his famous profanities. I am impatient with recipes, I have random food allergies, and I am notorious for forgetting to pick up the things on my shopping list. I love to cook, though, and sometimes it turns out!

This dish was one of those occasions. I grabbed some pre-made butternut squash ravioli just because it sounded like fall. I think I’ve finally gotten sick of pumpkin spiced everything, but butternut squash is just a whole different beast. Just be careful if you try ever try to peel one yourself. Last year, I almost took my pinky off and have since vowed to buy mine pre-cut…or better yet, already inside of ravioli.

I boiled up the ravioli and let it sit in the strainer with a little olive oil so it didn’t stick together, then I got started on the sauce. You could certainly do the sauce while you’re waiting for the ravioli, but the cook time on the ravioli is so short that I knew I would get distracted and either overcook the ravioli or burn the sauce, so I just did them separately.

I’ve never made a brown butter sauce before. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a brown butter sauce before, but it seems to be pretty popular on Masterchef, so what the heck.

I started out with 1/4 cup butter in a pan, slowly heating it so it browned but didn’t burn. As the butter was heating up, it started spitting everywhere, so I switched to a bigger pan in the middle of it all.  At that point, I was sure this sauce was doomed, but we had to eat something, so I kept going. It takes awhile for the butter to brown up, and it’s kind of a weird thing to watch if you have never experienced it. I kept thinking, is this right? What is that brown stuff? Is the bottom of my pan flaking off? Am I poisoning my family? Oh! That’s what brown butter looks like, dummy!

I didn’t have heavy cream like a real chef, so I dumped a cup of skim milk in there and hoped for the best. Then I grabbed my little shaker of sage leaf and said a quick prayer that sage doesn’t expire. I let it all simmer together for a minute or two, then added 1/4 cup of parmesan from the green shaker thing plus some salt and pepper. I actually do have an amazing herb garden (with lots of mojito mint), so I threw in some fresh parsley too. I spooned it over the ravioli, and voila! Dinner is served!

I honestly don’t even know if the photo looks appetizing to anyone else, but I do know that my hubby dug around for an extra piece of bread so he could get every last drop off his plate. I just went ahead and licked mine.

Recipe:

1/4 cup butter – brown this up in a BIG pan, stir a lot for 5+ minutes.

Then add:

1 cup skim milk &

1 tbsp sage leaf

Simmer all together until milk is warmed through, then add:

1/4 Parmesan cheese

Parsley, if you have it

S&P

Serve over ravioli.  Boom. Dinner.