Thursday, October 24, 2013

Spaghetti Squash with Turkey Meat Ragu

Spaghetti squash. Let us discuss the mysterious spaghetti squash.

People have been really into this squash, making casseroles and bakes and pie crusts all over the blog-o-sphere. It has become common practice to replace pasta with a base of spaghetti squash. I get it, it's cute. SPAGHETTI squash instead of SPAGHETTI...but I wasn't buying it.

I finally found a beautiful spaghetti squash in my Whole Foods the other day so I scooped it up along with some meat sauce ingredients. I wanted to give spaghetti squash a chance, and I needed to light meal to balance all these pumpkin spiced baked goods I've been eating :-)

It sounds so cliche, but this Spaghetti Squash with Turkey Meat Ragu may be my new favorite pasta dish--and there is no pasta here! Spaghetti squash tendrils are topped with a rich, thick turkey meat sauce packed with fresh parsley and basil and a twist of lemon juice. It is rich and comforting and bright. The squash is buttery from roasting and adds the perfect crunch to the lovely, meaty ragu.

For anyone who has never purchased a spaghetti squash before (like me), here is a fool-proof way to prepare it. If yours has a stem, lop it off. Then cut the spaghetti squash in half and, using a spoon, scrape out all of the seeds and the guts. I originally thought I was cleaning out the "spaghetti" part of the spaghetti squash, but this won't materialize until the squash is cooked. Season the cavity generously with salt and pepper.

Line a heavy baking sheet with aluminum foil and drizzle with olive oil. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the squash cut side down onto the olive oil and bake for about 35 minutes. The squash is done when you push on the skin and it gives a bit.

Top a bowl of this squash and ragu with extra fresh herbs and a bit of parmesan cheese. Leave out the cheese and you have a Paleo friendly meal as well! But trust me - this dish is so delicious, you won't have any idea that it's that good for you!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Cheddar, Apple, Bacon Grilled Cheese

Has everyone gone apple picking this year? We went a couple of weekends ago and we are STILL working on our peck of Macintosh and Cortland apples.

I've literally been eating an apple a day. Last week, I had two in one day. So many apples.

I made a cinnamon sugar apple cake that was just BANANAS good (or...apples good?) and I thought "Oh, apple cake? This is going to use up a whole bunch of apples and we won't have to worry about any of them going bad!"

Want to know how many apples that took? Two. Two medium apples. Not even the biggest in our peck. Ugh, ok. Time to get creative.

When I was younger, I always remember my dad putting a slice of cheese on his apple pie and shielding my eyes from the terror. It always struck me as the weirdest thing in the world, because obviously apple pie should be eaten with ICE CREAM, not cheese. Wrong dairy, pops.

Turns out my dad may have been onto something. Salty and sweet is a flavor combination that makes my knees go weak.

Here's an incredible lunch idea that is going to use up some of those extra apples and also make your taste buds sing. Cheddar, Apple, and Bacon Grilled Cheese is everything that is right in this world. Ooey, gooey white cheddar, crunchy bacon, crispy apples all sandwiched between two beautifully golden brown pieces of bread. It's your childhood lunchbox, elevated to the next level.

I recommend an apple that has some tart notes to its flavor but is still softly sweet. Nice and crisp, but with a tender skin. I mentioned how we have MacIntosh and Cortland apples -- these are great, and honey crisp apples would also work beautifully. Surely a Granny Smith apple would be OK, but I almost think it's TOO tart for this sammy.

I also slather some Sweet Potato Mustard onto these outrageously delicious sandwiches. This is a shameless plug for my friends over at Green Mountain Mustard who make delicious gourmet mustards out of Vermont. The sweet potato mustard is out of this world--I put it on everything! You can order online, but if you don't have this mustard, a good dijon will do the trick!

I have a feeling I will be buying more apples at the store once we have made it through our first bundle JUST so I can have more of these amazing grilled cheese sandwiches! Recipe below will make 2 sandwiches.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Bacon Mushroom Swiss Cheeseburger Casserole

So, here's the deal. I'll keep it short and sweet.

Because it's Friday, and because I love you guys, we are going to take my favorite burger and make it into a casserole.

Stay with me because things are about to get crazy. You want this--nay, you NEED this in your life. I'm not sure what I was thinking when I dreamed up this recipe, but if I were this creative all the time I like to think that I'd be in a pretty good place in life.

This Bacon Mushroom Swiss Cheeseburger Casserole is essentially a really delicious deconstructed burger. We are taking bold flavors and we are being bold.

I took some inspiration from my Mom's Macaroni and Cheese recipe, namely by creating a simple cheese sauce by melting a block of cheese into condensed soup. Only this time, we will melt swiss cheese into mushroom soup. Do you see where I'm going with this?

Bacon is baked until crispy, ground beef is browned and crumbled, and the whole kit and caboodle gets mixed together with orecchiette pasta then topped with crispy french fried onions! Bam! Burger casserole.

By the way what does the phrase kit and caboodle actually mean? Where the heck did it come from and who was the first soul to utter the phrase? I'm not sure how I feel about it...

I digress...

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Vegetable Skillet Lasagna

This idea of one-pan dinners is a life saver. I love you, one-pot meals. You make my heart go pitter patter.

I feel like all I keep saying to you is how hectic my life has been. And I know it's really lame to complain about things like that so let me just say this -- I have been wildly appreciative of quick weeknight meals that result in very few dirty dishes but still taste delicious.

Enter: Skillet Lasagna. There are tons of variations of skillet lasagna out there. Some use lasagna noodles, some use regular pasta, others have ground meat in them, some are loaded with veggies and other good stuff.

This recipe for Skillet Vegetable Lasagna is so simple but the flavors are bold and delicious. Fresh carrots, zucchini, and spinach make for a robust pasta, even without meat. Try this for Meatless Monday--it won't disappoint!

Also, if you don't have an oven-proof skillet, just use a big skillet with a tight-fitting lid. You can melt the cheese over the top by covering the pan on the stove top after assembling all the layers.

Though this is a good time to plug my love for my Cast Iron Skillet. I've used it many times before (like biscuits and steak roll-ups). It is such a great kitchen staple that will last you for years!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Football Sunday Appetizers!

Who's ready for some football!?!?!?!?!?!?

Excessive punctuation. My apologies.

It's a rainy Sunday here in the Boston area, which means it's the perfect day to gather up some friends, cook up some tasty appetizers, and enjoy hours and hours of football! Sounds fun to me--just add beer!

Here's some inspiration to get your appetizer gears grinding. Follow the links to the step by step recipes and get cooking!

BBQ Chicken Nachos.

Swoon. You need these in your life. Traditional nachos with a cheesy, barbeque-y, twist. Plenty to share, if you're willing of course.

Pepperoni Pizza Dip.

What do you get when you add cream cheese, pepperonis, melted mozzarella cheese and warm marinara sauce? If you said, APPETIZER BLISS, you'd be right. This dip begs to be eaten with slices of warm Italian bread.

Crispy Sweet Potato Ravioli.

It's all the flavors of autumn, packed into a tasty little bite. Sweet potato, caramelized onions and mushrooms are packed into wonton wrappers and fried until crispy. These are going to fly off the table like crazy!

Crab Rangoons.

You're favorite Chinese take-out snack, right in your own kitchen. What is better than cream cheese and crab meat fried to golden brown perfection? Very little, in fact.

Creamy White Bean Dip.

The elegant older brother of hummus, this white bean dip is packed with fresh herbs and bright lemon juice. White beans are soft and subtle. Dip anything into this dish, and you'll be a happy camper. I enjoy it with celery sticks, english cucumbers, and whole wheat tortilla scoops!