Let’s Talk – Spaghetti Squash!

Let’s talk about spaghetti squash!

Wait! Stop! Don’t click away!

Come on – keep reading!

Give it a chance!

First – let’s end some misconceptions.

DSC_0187This watermelon shaped yellowish squash does NOT taste like spaghetti noodles.

Nor does it have the texture of spaghetti noodles.

It is NOT spaghetti.

But after cooking – it can be forked out of the shell into a strands that have the shape of spaghetti and are a great whole food substitute for pasta.

It really doesn’t have much flavor at all – allowing it take on whatever flavor you add.

Now that you have mentally prepared and alerted your taste buds – are you ready to give it a try?

Good! Let’s cook it.

Although there are many different methods –  the most important thing to remember is to cut vents in it so it doesn’t build up steam and explode (think baked potatoes).

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To avoid this – and as an extra precaution – I always cut mine in half, scoop out the seeds, and place them upside down in a baking dish with a little water in the bottom.

Then I cover them with foil and bake them at 350 degrees until the insides are tender – or – if I’m in a hurry – I’ll skip the foil and microwave them on high till soft.

It’s hard to set baking time since they vary in size (especially when home grown) but plan on at least an hour in the oven and 20 minutes in the microwave.

Then you take your fork and “string” the flesh into spaghetti like strands.

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See? It’s easy!

Now you can get creative.

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Add butter, garlic and Parmesan cheese for a yummy side dish.

Or butter, cream cheese and Ranch dressing mix.

Or cover it in an Alfredo sauce – add some diced ham or cooked sausage and you have a yummy entree.

Or switch out the Alfredo and ham for ground beef and spaghetti sauce.

How about a “loaded baked potato” dish with bacon, cheddar cheese and sour cream?

The flavor combinations are endless!

An added bonus? You can cook the squash in advance and refrigerate it – with or without the additions – until you need it.

Enjoy!

Pumpkin Cheesecake Mousse

pumpkin cheesecake moussePsst!

Still need a dessert for your Thanksgiving meal?

Do you have a hankering for a little more pumpkin wonderfulness – but really don’t want to make a pie crust?

Maybe you’ve got a can of pumpkin left that’s needing to be used?

Here’s the perfect recipe for you!

Creamy pumpkin wonderfulness that can whipped up in a flash.

Angel Girl and I are addicted. We just finished our third batch this month – but who’s counting. 🙂

Pumpkin Cheesecake Mousse

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 cup pumpkin puree (or 1 can of pumpkin)
2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
3/4 cup of sugar (or1/3 cup Truvia )
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Cream together the cream cheese, pumpkin and spice. Add sweetener.

In a separate bowl whip the cream with vanilla until soft and fluffy.

Gently fold the whipped cream into the pumpkin mixture.

Spoon into individual serving dishes, or into a graham cracker pie crust for a pie.

Serve it with a dollop of whipped cream and some freshly grated nutmeg.

You could take a short cut and use Cool Whip – but why? The real whipping cream takes just a few minutes and is so amazing!

Want to take it to the next level? Whip up a batch of Bavarian Cream to dollop on top.

Bavarian Cream

8 ounces cream cheese
2/3 cup brown sugar (1/4 cup Truvia)
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
1 pint of whipping cream

Mix cream cheese, brown sugar, vanilla and salt. Set aside. Whip cream. Fold whipped cream into cream cheese.

This will stay stable and keep in the fridge for about a week if well hidden from the children.

<happy sigh>

No wonder we’re addicted!

Enjoy!

Oatmeal Cravings

apple oatmealI’m not a huge oatmeal eater.

But every so often – like maybe once a year – I decide that for some reason oatmeal sounds really good.

I’m not sure why I think this since the last time I had a bowl of oatmeal that I actually enjoyed was …

Hmmm….

Let me see…

Still thinking here….

Hmmm…

Okay…that would be never.

But still – the urge hit last week.

I wanted a bowl of steaming hot oatmeal for breakfast.

I got the water boiling, added my oatmeal and decided in my foggy just barely awake mind that an apple would taste yummy in this bowl of delicious healthy food.

So I went to the porch to choose an apple – the perfect apple – from the box of “just picked from our very own trees” apples.

By the time I returned to the stove with my perfect apple washed and diced – my oatmeal was scorched on the bottom of the pan.

This should have been my first warning. But did I heed this warning? No. I started a second pot of water, added my oatmeal and apple, and began to scrounge in the cupboard for the cinnamon, because everyone knows that oatmeal with apples needs cinnamon.

I tear the cupboard apart looking – while stirring my oatmeal every few minutes – until I find the jar.

The almost empty jar.

The “there is just a dusting of cinnamon in the bottom” jar.

I pour all 1/120th of a teaspoon of cinnamon into my oatmeal.

This is sad.

Then I remember that we have cinnamon sticks. In my sleep deprived mind I thought surely I could just grate a cinnamon stick on a micro plane and have fresh cinnamon.

Brilliant!

Or not.

After grating for several minutes (while stirring my now done oatmeal) all I had was a few flecks of cinnamon in my oatmeal and two fingers missing skin.

On to plan C.

What if I break off a piece of cinnamon stick and grind it the coffee grinder?!

Brilliant!

Or not.

After several seconds all I had done was break the stick into lots of little sticks.

But I added them to my now overdone mushy oatmeal anyway – figuring they would eventually soften and dissolve. Right?

Wrong.

These are called cinnamon sticks for a reason. They are sticks. Sticks don’t grate. Sticks don’t grind. Sticks don’t dissolve.

Sticks stay sticks and I was picking them out of my teeth for the rest of the day.

So much for this year’s oatmeal craving.

I should be good for another 12 months.

Homemade Montreal Seasoning

homemade spice mixIs anyone else addicted to the Montreal seasoning mixes?

It doesn’t matter if it’s the steak or the chicken mix – we use this stuff on a daily basis!

We add it to our burgers, layer it on our roasts and sprinkle it on our chops.

It’s even the secret ingredient in our scrambled eggs.

It’s such a staple in our diet that running out is akin to a catastrophe! But it has happened – more than once.

It was during one of those times that I discovered you could actually make your own blend!

I played around with several recipes until I came up with this one that we now use almost exclusively.

It may not be exactly like Montreal – but it’s close enough! We call it our “house seasoning” and make it in bulk!

It takes almost no time to mix up, uses spices I already had in the cupboard, and can be personalized.

If you like it spicier – just add more cayenne.  Or swap out smoked paprika if you like a warm smoky taste.

Montreal Seasoning

7 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon pepper
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground thyme
1 teaspoon ground rosemary
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon paprika

Mix together in a bowl and store in a cool dry place.

(Or – if your like me – by your stove in an old spice  bottle because you use it all the time!)

Enjoy!

 

Homemade Ranch Dressing

homemade ranch dipWe love ranch dressing around here.

It’s a staple at almost every meal.

You could almost call it a separate food group.

It comes it a bottle from the store and it’s not something you mess with.

But I did.

I actually made a homemade version – and served it to my children despite their astonished and – yes – even hostile looks.

And they loved it!

Score for mom!

It has now almost totally replaced the bottle from the grocery store. Pedro liked it so well that he requested it for his graduation party.

Good thing it’s so fast and easy and to throw together because we’ve made gallons of it!

Ranch Dressing

1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Milk or Buttermilk

Mix together the mayonnaise, sour cream and spices in a bowl.

You can serve it now as a dip.

But if you want a salad dressing – just add milk or buttermilk to your desired consistency.

Store in the fridge. Enjoy!