Spaghetti Squash Three Cheese “Mac” & Cheese

Welcome to FALL! One of the things I love about fall is the ability to turn on the oven without needing to also turn on the air conditioner to counteract the heat overload in this very small apartment.

A couple of nights ago I made a dish using spaghetti squash for dinner and consequently had half a squash left over. What tends to happen with me is that I make a meal for the sole purpose of using up something left over in my fridge (a few days ago it was cherry tomatoes), and then end up having a different leftover ingredient. So instead of just throwing some sauce on the squash like I usually do, I started looking for other ideas and came across a picture of spaghetti squash “mac & cheese.” Yes please! But the recipes I was finding mostly used reduced fat cheese. I have a theory about reduced fat or fat-free cheese: don’t do it. I’d much rather eat the fat and all the flavor that comes with it than the chemicals they use to remove the fat from the cheese. If you don’t want to eat the fat that comes with cheese, just don’t eat the cheese.

So, without further ado, my own version of FULL FAT Spaghetti Squash Three Cheese “Mac” & Cheese! (It should be noted that I added broccoli not to make it “healthier” but because I thought the color and texture contrast would be nice and I also happen to love broccoli that’s been slathered in cheese).
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If you do not already have leftover spaghetti squash, you’ll need to obtain one, medium sized, and slice it in half (carefully! I almost lost a finger cutting a raw squash in half once), and scoop out and discard the middle goop and seeds (or save the seeds for roasting for snacks). Preheat the oven to 375. Spray the squash halves lightly with olive oil and turn them upside down (so the peel is facing up) on a baking tray and bake for about 30 minutes. Once it’s soft, scoop the strands out of the shell with a fork.

While the squash is cooking, warm 1 cup of milk in on the stove with about 3/4 cup each of grated sharp white cheddar and gruyere until the cheese begins to melt. Whisk until all the cheese is evenly melted,.remove from the heat and whisk in 2 Tbsp flour. Let the mixture cool a little, and then stir in 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt and a pinch of salt, fresh pepper, and nutmeg. Combine the sauce with the spaghetti squash “noodles” in an oven safe dish. Add your broccoli if you’re using it (or spinach); I used organic frozen broccoli florets and defrosted them ahead of time and squeezed out the excess water. Sprinkle everything with grated parmesan cheese (you could also add breadcrumbs or panko) and bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes or until the top begins to brown. I also threw on some red pepper flakes before it went in the oven because I like it with a little kick!

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Now enjoy your hearty fall vegetarian meal! Note: to make this gluten free, just use a gluten-free flour, like rice flour or tapioca flour. To make this vegan… uhh… sorry, I think you’re out of luck.

I’ve also included a pic here of my kitchen piglet: my almost-14-year-old pug who insists on standing under me as I cook so she can have first dibs on whatever hits the floor. Her back was covered in parmesan cheese!

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copycat squash vindaloo with cool ranch raita

Last weekend my husband and I had a stay-local date night at one of our favorite spots in the neighborhood, Thistle Hill Tavern. Some of their menu items change seasonally, and there was a new side dish that I knew I had to try the second I read it: squash vindaloo with cool ranch raita! It was every bit as good — or better — than it sounded. It arrived in a clay hotpot, this glorious piping hot bowl of Indian-spiced squash and a cool yogurt sauce with a kick to it. The server even brought us some thick slices of toasted bread to swipe up every last morsel from the bowl. I’m a copycat when it comes to my favorite restaurants, and I’ve stolen (attempted to recreate at home) some side dishes from their menu before, like their buffalo cauliflower with gorgonzola, so after one bite I said I wanted to try to make this one. So here goes!

IMG_6230Dice 2 medium sized yellow onions and sauté them until translucent in 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp coconut oil in a large heavy pot. While the onion is cooking, mix your spices together in a small bowl: 1 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp coriander, 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground cloves. Add the spices and 1 large minced garlic clove to the onions and cook about 1 minute. next add a 28 oz can of diced tomatoes with the liquid (my go to brand is San Marzano), and about 4 cups of cubed butternut squash. I was lazy with the squash today and bought pre-cubed squash at Whole Foods because it’s such a pain to chop. They didn’t have pre-cut acorn squash though, so I bought a whole one, poked some holes in it, microwaved it until it was soft enough to cut (about 6 mins), de-seeded it, and scooped the squash out. Finally, add the acorn squash, 1 tbsp tomato paste, 1 tbsp red wine vinegar, 1/2 tsp minced ginger, 1/2 cup water or broth, and 1 tbsp coconut sugar (you could use brown sugar instead) to the pot, cover it, and let simmer until the squash is soft, about 30-40 mins. At the very end, add salt to taste, about 1/2 tsp.

While your squash is cooking, make your yogurt sauce. I used about 4 oz plain greek yogurt and mixed in 1 1/2 tbsp fresh chopped dill, 1 tsp of a dill/onion/lemon/garlic/pepper seasoning mix called “it’s a dilly” (you could just use onion powder and some pepper), 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp paprika, and 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice.

Assemble your bowl of squash vindaloo with yogurt on top and a little dill or parsley garnish, served with a warm toasty slice of bread or naan, or on top of rice. The verdict? It’s no Thistle Hill, but it was really delicious. And a complete hearty vegetarian meal (vegan if you skip the yogurt) for cool fall nights, packed with flavor (and vitamin A)!

 


borlotti bean mole w/ roast winter squash

     My fellow residents of the northeast will probably agree that it’s been a strange winter, weather-wise. On Friday, the temperature got above 50, and I had to take off my scarf and gloves on my bike ride home from work because I was overheating. Two days later of course, today, it’s back into the 20’s and the wind is whipping around at 26 miles an hour. It’s a perfect day to make a hearty winter stew-type dinner, and I have just the right recipe I’ve been wanting to try.
     Edamam (not edamame/soybeans) may be one of my favorite discoveries of 2012. It’s a website (and an iphone app) that features over a million recipes, and you can search for certain ingredients and filter your results by diet or preference, such as “dairy-free” for example. I follow them on Facebook, and there’s always something delicious-looking popping up in my feed that I want to try. This week, I saw a recipe featured by Edamam that happens to come from one of my go-to food blogs, 101 Cookbooks, for Borlotti Bean Mole with Roast Winter Squash. I’ve always wanted to make mole sauce and my dad makes an amazing one, but every time he starts telling me how to make it, I remember how labor intensive it is, and think “maybe another time…” But this recipe sounded like a great way to get that mole flavor without your typical 20-30 ingredients and all-day time commitment (although this is not a quick fix meal, so if you’re like me, save it for a weekend).
     Start by soaking 1 1/2 cups of dry borlotti beans (same as cranberry beans, or you can use pinto beans) overnight in a good sized pot or bowl filled with water. I actually didn’t plan far enough ahead and only soaked mine today for about 5 hours, but you can make up for it by simmering them a little longer. After they’ve soaked, rinse them, and bring them to a boil with water that covers them by about an inch. Then reduce the heat, cover, and let them simmer for about 45 minutes. It’s ok to have them be a little under-cooked because they’ll be in the oven later. Preheat the oven to 350. Peel and cube a winter squash of your choice (I used an acorn squash) and roast the cubes in a pan with olive oil until the edges are caramelized, about 20 minutes. Melt 2 tbsp butter (or use olive oil, or a combination of the two) into a heavy pot (if you have a pot that can go from stove to oven and has a lid, use that) and fry 1 medium chopped onion and 2-4 red jalapenos (depending how spicy you want it) that have been seeded and chopped, for about 20-30 minutes on low heat. Add 2 cloves of chopped garlic and fry for another 3 minutes. Then add a pound of fresh chopped plum tomatoes (or a 14 oz can- I like San Marzano) and 2 tsp of paprika. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 mins. Add an ounce of dark roasted almonds, ground (you can use a spice grinder, coffee grinder, or small food processor), 2 oz of 70% dark chocolate broken into pieces, 1 tsp salt, the beans & squash, and 4-5 large chopped kale leaves. Stir until the chocolate is melted. I also added a little water at this point because it became too thick to stir. If your casserole pot can go from stovetop to oven, just put the lid on and throw it in. If not (like me!), transfer what’s in your pot on the stovetop to an oven proof casserole dish, cover with tin foil, and bake for about 2 hours at 250.
     Serving notes: I thought it definitely needed more salt at the end, and more heat – red pepper flakes, hot sauce, or your choice of spice. The beans really soak up the heat. The original recipe says to serve with tortillas, polenta, or mashed potatoes. I think mashed potatoes would be FAR too mushy for this already soft dish. We actually liked blue tortilla chips with it, to scoop with, and also crushed up on top to add a little texture. And as a side note, this is not the prettiest looking finished product, but not only is it delicious, but it also makes 4 big servings for just under $20! A bargain, plus leftovers!
Borlotti Bean Mole w/ Roast Winter Squash

Borlotti Bean Mole w/ Roast Winter Squash


squash & sweet potato tagine

Fall veggies – I could eat them all year long. Sometimes I think if everything contained butternut squash, the world would be a better place (the fact that trying to chop a butternut squash almost cost me a finger once doesn’t deter me). It just tastes like hearty sweet nutritious comforting perfection to me. So when we got butternut squash, acorn squash, and sweet potatoes in our CSA bag this week, I was really excited to get cooking! I came across this recipe for a vegetable tagine, which didn’t include acorn squash but I figured I could throw it in anyway. I also didn’t have a tagine, which is sort of a traditional Moroccan clay pot, or a dutch oven or terra cotta substitute, but I do have a beautiful Le Creuset french blue stoneware baking dish that my dad and stepmom got me for my birthday and I don’t get to use nearly enough. So I prepped the first part of the recipe in a pan and transferred it to the Le Creuset for the baking part, which seemed to work out just fine!

If you also don’t have a tagine, or something similar that can go from stovetop to oven, do this: Preheat the oven to 375. In a pan, saute one chopped onion in 2 tbsp olive oil until it turns golden. Then add 2 cloves of minced garlic, 1 tsp ground ginger, 1/8 tsp crushed saffron threads, and a pinch of cayenne pepper, and cook for another minutes. Then transfer this to your baking dish with 1 butternut squash, 2 sweet potatoes, and 1 acorn squash (chopped into cubes) or any ratio of these veggies you want (I personally would have gone with more butternut and less sweet potato if I did it again). You could also add carrots. Slowly stir in 2 cups of hot vegetable stock, top with a 1/2 cup of raisins, and drizzle with 1 tbsp of agave (or honey). Stick a cinnamon stick in the middle, cover and bake for an hour. Remove the cinnamon stick, sprinkle with cilantro leaves, serve on its own, with bread for dipping, or over brown rice or cous cous. Now I have to admit (and I LOVE cilantro), I was skeptical of how the cilantro would taste with this… but it was great! Such a nice flavor contrast. Definitely don’t skip it (if you tolerate cilantro). We ate it as a main course over brown rice (Lundberg, my favorite) with sauteed snap beans. Delish…

Squash and sweet potato tagine right out of the oven

Tagine with brown rice and snap beans