Thursday, February 11, 2016

Spaghetti Squash with Spinach, Mushrooms, and Leeks in a Garlic Wine Sauce

I am a huge fan of spaghetti squash to begin with, always looking for new ways to incorporate it into meals. We are moving towards more vegetarian meals in our house. This recipe wasn't exactly the one I intended to make last night since I ended up changing a lot as I cooked, but it came out delicious. The best part?

All the kids ate it...and they didn't just eat it, they liked it!

This recipe could easily be converted to a vegan one, if you swap the butter for olive oil and omit the cheese.

Spaghetti Squash with Spinach, Mushrooms, and Leeks in a Garlic Wine Sauce
Do not be intimidated by the title of this recipe. Honest. It seems like a lot, or like it's going to be complicated. I promise it isn't. I got the whole thing done, start to finish in about 30 minutes. (not including the time the squash was roasting...because the oven did that, not me).

Also, I am going to tell you what I made, with the quantity of ingredients I used. If you want to cut the recipe in half, it could be done fairly easily. As it stands, this served 6 hearty portions with enough leftovers for 2 lunches.

  • 2 medium spaghetti squashes, roasted and separated into strings
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium leek, sliced
  • 1 good handful of fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1 pound of cremini mushrooms (or sub out whatever mushrooms you prefer), rough chopped
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 sprigs of fresh sage, chopped and rubbed
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • fresh parmesan or romano cheese

First, roast the squash. Set your oven to 400 degrees, and cut the squash in half. Place them cut side down on a cookie sheet with some water. Put them in the oven for about 45 minutes. They are done when you can easily pierce the skin with a fork. 

When they have about 15 minutes left to cook, start chopping the other ingredients. 

Happy little leeks

Mushrooms, sage and spinach

Saute the leeks in olive oil and butter on medium heat for about 5-7 minutes, until softened. Around now, the squash should be done. Take it out of the oven, flip the cut side up and let them cool.

Add the spinach, mushrooms, sage and garlic. Stir and saute all ingredients together on medium heat for about 8-10 minutes, then add in the wine. Turn up until boiling, then lower to medium again. Cook until the liquid reduces, about 5 minutes.

Around this time, the squash should be cool enough to handle. Scoop out the seeds, then separate the squash into strings with a fork. Add squash into the pan with the rest of the ingredients. Salt and pepper to taste, then add in some cheese. Stir and heat through for about 5 minutes.

Serve with additional cheese on top. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

Homemade Tomato Soup

Soup season. Yes.

I made this a few nights ago, then realized that I had not shared it here yet.

It's quick and easy and delicious. Once you start making it yourself, I promise you won't go back to the canned stuff.  Makes six hearty servings. We eat it with grilled cheese sandwiches. Of course.

When tomatoes are in season, or if you're lucky enough to be in an area where fresh ones are available year round, use them instead of the canned tomatoes here in the recipe. If you're ambitious enough to make your own puree too, do it. You won't be disappointed.

Homemade Tomato Soup
- 1 large can of tomato puree
- 2 cans of petite diced tomatoes, drained
- 3-4 cups of chicken stock
- 1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 4 tbsp butter
- 1 cup milk
- cornstarch
- basil, fresh or dried
- 1 tsp sugar
- bay leaf
- salt and pepper to taste

Saute the garlic in butter in a large stockpot until it becomes fragrant. Add tomato puree, diced tomatoes, and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer. Add in sugar, one bay leaf and a handful of fresh chopped basil or a heaping tablespoon of dried basil. Allow it to simmer for about 20 minutes.

Measure out a cup of milk and mix into it 1-2 tbsp of cornstarch. Stir it until completely dissolved, then slowly add it to soup mixture while whisking so that no chunks form. Allow soup to thicken slightly, then remove bay leaf and serve. Add salt and pepper as desired for taste (amount of salt will depend on the stock you use).

I do toss Sriracha in my bowl as well, because Sriracha.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Hearty Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

Oh, my poor neglected recipe blog. I'm sorry. My bad.

I'm going to try to post something new here once a week or so.

I was planning to make meatloaf and mashed potatoes for dinner last night, but one of my littles wasn't feeling good...and when one of my littles isn't feeling good, they always tend to ask for the same thing. Chicken noodle soup.

I've been making my own soup for a while now, and realized just how spoiled my family is when we went up to a cabin a few weeks back. I took canned soup for dinner and they all made the same dissatisfied face when I served it to them. They wanted the good stuff. I can't really say that I blame them.

This recipe is a few years in the works now, and is a million times better if you use homemade chicken stock. Every time I roast a chicken, I make stock and freeze it if I will not be using it within a few days. If you don't have fresh or frozen stock, you can absolutely use prepared stock or bouillon.

I make a huge pot of soup. It feeds my family of 6 (plus the baby, so like 6.25), with leftovers for a few bowls. You can cut the recipe if you'd like. I just make enormous amounts of food, so I measure in pots, not cups. ;)

Ingredients for Hearty Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 4-5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 4 cups chicken stock, more as needed (can use dried bouillon and water as well)
- 4 cups water
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 bunch scallions, sliced
- 2 cups mushrooms, chopped
- 4-5 stalks celery, chopped
- 4-5 medium carrots, chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1-2 tsp dried thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- egg noodles

Before I tell you all how I make this, I will confess that I'm a lazy chef. I toss the frozen thighs into a pot, covered with about 4 cups of water. I bring the water to a boil, then turn it down to a solid simmer for about an hour or so. As the meat defrosts and cooks, the water evaporates. I keep an eye on it, and the meat is generally cooked around the time that most of the water has disappeared.

When most of the water has evaporated, I add a little bit of oil and brown the edges of the chicken in the same pot. After the edges are just a bit crispy, I remove the chicken from the pot and chop or shred it. Return the chicken to the pot with another bit of oil, and toss in the onions. Stir around, cooking in the oil until the onions are transparent.

Add the mushrooms, celery and carrots, along with the stock, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer for about 20-30 minutes until the vegetables are soft (but not mushy). I then add the scallions and noodles. (Depending on what I have on hand, I may cook them separately first or just toss them directly in the pot with a little extra water...the tiny noodles used here were just tossed straight in with a few extra cups of water).

Simmer again until noodles are done. Remove bay leaf, check to see if you need to add salt and pepper and serve. I always serve it with grilled cheese sandwiches (made with mayonnaise instead of butter...sounds nasty, but trust me, you'll never go back).

Mmmmm, comfort food.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Peach Cobbler Recipe Hack, Soda Cake

Hi. We celebrated my father in law's birthday yesterday. His favorite dessert in the whole wide world is peach cobbler, but he's gone and put himself on a diet, so I had to get creative.

I found some recipe hacks online and added my own twist to it. Considering that I didn't even get a picture of it because the people ate the entire tray of it, I'm just going to say that it went over splendidly.

If you're looking for a reduced sugar, low fat dessert idea that uses fresh fruit and is ridiculously easy, this is your thing. Promise.

Soda Cake Peach Cobbler
- 6-8 fresh peaches, peeled and cut up into bite size pieces
- 1 box yellow cake mix
- 1 can lemon lime diet soda (I used Sprite Zero)
- Handful of oats (optional)
- 2 tbsp brown sugar (also optional)
- cinnamon

(Yes, really, that's all that goes into it)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13 pan with nonstick spray. Add the cut up peaches to the bottom, spreading evenly. (They do not, by the way, need to be ripe or cooked, which is a double bonus).

Spread the cake mix over the top, patting down with your hand. If you want it to be a little crispy, add the oats and brown sugar. Pour soda carefully over the top of the mixture. It will be bubbly. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon.

Bake for one hour.

I served it with light whipped cream instead of ice cream because of the diet, but you could use either.

Like I said, there was nothing left. They licked the container of whipped cream clean and scraped every bit out of the pan.

Friday, July 18, 2014

How To Make a Homemade Volcano, Then Make It Explode!

This summer, I've been spending a lot of time teaching the kids different science lessons. This week we are focusing on geology, rocks, tectonic plates, earthquakes and volcanoes. I decided that our science project for the week would be to construct and explode a homemade volcano.

The chemical reaction in this easy experiment really isn't that different from what happens in a real volcano. The production of carbon dioxide is what causes the eruption. The best part is that all the ingredients are non-toxic and safe to touch!

This is actually a really easy project that can take as little as an hour start to finish, just depending on the level of detail you're shooting for. Everything you'll use is probably already sitting in your kitchen.

Here's what you will need:

- empty plastic bottle (ours was about 12 ounces in size)
- cookie sheet 
- flour
- salt
- vegetable oil
- water
- red food coloring
- dishsoap
- baking soda
- vinegar
- paint (optional)

1) Mix up the material to build the volcano. Take about 6 cups of flour, about 2 cups of salt and mix thoroughly. Add 1/4 cup vegetable oil and 2 cups warm water. Mix with hands until it forms a doughy paste.

2) Take the plastic bottle, put it on the cookie sheet and start adding the paste mixture, building it up gradually from the bottom. You'll want to first stabilize the bottle, then form the cone of the volcano. Compact it to ensure it all holds. Let dry (only takes a few minutes).

3) If desired, paint your volcano. We painted it. Of course we did. Let dry. If you're so inclined, you could build a little village and put some trees around it to see how the lava flows would affect people nearby.

4) Fill a glass of about the same size as the bottle with very warm water. Add some drops of the food coloring.

5) Pour the tinted water into the bottle in the center of the volcano. Once added, squirt some dishsoap in with it.

6) Carefully pour about 2 tbsp baking soda into the water. It may begin to foam up a little.

7) Pour the vinegar into the bottle a little at a time and watch the lava explode and run down the sides of the volcano!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Fruit Infused Water

A few months ago, I started drinking fruit infused waters. I started primarily to ensure that I was getting an adequate daily water intake, knowing that I would drink more if the water had some flavor to it.

Since changing over to this, even the kids and my husband have started drinking it. I haven't bought juice aside from orange juice in months. Even sports drinks have been pushed aside for the fruit water here.

I've noticed that it is already helping me combat swelling in this pregnancy a ton.

As for the nutritional value of these waters, it isn't my area of expertise. I don't add sugar to them at all and any sugar comes from the fruit itself, which is pretty substantially diluted.

I have two jars that we use for the water. A one gallon sun tea jar is what I use when making small batches, then we have a larger two gallon jar for the weekends when everyone is home all day. I fill them and add the fruit first thing in the morning. The longer it sits, the better it is. There are some combinations with teas and vegetables as well.

I empty and wash the dispensers at night.

The idea is to just try different combinations out and see what you like the best.

I add one lemon/lime/orange/peach (or other larger fruit) and a handful of berries at a time. If you squeeze the fruit or bruise the herb leaves slightly, the flavors will come out quicker.

These are some of the combinations we have tried here:

- Lemon blackberry (my personal favorite)
- Lemon raspberry
- Orange lemon raspberry
- Kiwi strawberry
- Peach strawberry
- Orange blueberry
- Lemon cucumber
- Lemon kiwi
- Apple peach
- Cantaloupe lemon
- Watermelon strawberry

I've added passion fruit tea, chamomile tea and black tea to them in different combinations as well. The passionfruit works best with lemon and berries. The chamomile works best with lemon. Black tea works best with oranges. Fresh herbs such as mint, basil and cilantro can be added as well. Mint blends well with berries and melons. Cilantro brings a fresh flavor when mixed with citrus.

Citrus fruits are known for helping detox your body and fight swelling, so I include some kind of citrus every day.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Carne Asada, Chimichurri Sauce, Beans and Lime Cilantro Rice

I promise that the next time I make this meal, I will remember to take pictures of it before the kids eat it all. I couldn't get to it before they destroyed it - which is a good thing. It means it all was good!

I learned, accidentally, that almost all of this meal is better when you let it sit and get happy longer than you think you should. I initially made it all for Sunday but ended up in the ER with my son after he got hit by a baseball. So, it waited an extra day. Turns out that made all the difference in the world, because everything was even better.

Carne Asada
This isn't exactly a traditional recipe, but it's damn good. I hate that I cook better food than you can get in restaurants here. This recipe is written for two flank steaks, but you can cut it in half if you only need one.

- Flank steak (one for every 3-4 people)
- 2/3 can of soda (I used regular Coke)
- juice of 2 large limes
- 2 tbsp oregano
- 2 tbsp seasoned salt
- 1/2 bunch of cilantro, chopped

Combine soda, juice, seasonings and cilantro in a bowl. Place meat in a shallow dish and pour mixture over top. Let marinate in the fridge 24+ hours, flipping a few times to make sure both sides are coated well.

Grill until desired temperature reached. We aim for medium here.

About halfway though the marinating process, I added chimichurri sauce to the marinade as well. That recipe is below.

Chimichurri Sauce
Chimichurri is an Argentinian sauce used mostly with grilled food. If you haven't had it, you must. This stuff will change your life.

- 1 bunch flat leaf parsley
- 3 tbsp minced garlic
- 1/2 small red onion, chopped
- 1 cup olive oil
- 2/3 cup vinegar
- juice of one lemon
- salt and pepper to taste

Throw all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse together. Use half to marinate the meat, reserve the other half in the fridge to use after the meat is cooked.

This is so easy and so ridiculously good that you won't buy canned beans again. Don't try it or you'll never go back. Honest.

- 16 oz pinto beans, rinsed
- 9 cups water
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 2 tbsp minced garlic
- 3 tbsp salt
- 1 tbsp pepper
- 1 tbsp cumin

Throw it all in a crockpot and cook on high at least 8 hours. Scoop out beans and onions, mash together adding cooking liquid as needed for texture.

I usually cook them for the 8 hours, but this time they sat on high for 12. I thought they'd be burned. Nope. Even better.

Lime Cilantro Rice
I conjured this one up after a trip to Chipotle. I fell in love with their rice and became determined to figure out what they put in it. This is what I've come up with.

- Cooked white rice (I make 8 cups at a time because my herd loves this stuff, preferable Jasmine rice)
- butter
- limes
- 1/2 bunch Cilantro
- salt and pepper to taste

For the amount of rice I make, I use 4 tbsp butter and 2-3 limes. Stir it all in, add salt and pepper to your preference, then try not to eat the entire bowl.

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